Proposed Tasmanian Legislation Aims to Simplify Major Projects and Approvals Process

Friday 6 October 2017 @ 10.20 a.m. | Legal Research

Comments, discussion and submissions on the Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Draft Bill 2017 (Tas) (the Bill) closed on 2 October 2017.  While the Bill is still being finalised, it is anticipated that the proposed legislation will make miscellaneous amendments to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (Tas) as well as making substantial amendments to the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 (Tas).

Background to the proposed changes

As part of the Tasmanian Government’s 2014 election agenda, the Government is attempting to make Tasmania attractive for investment and to create jobs. In light of this, the Tasmanian Government has committed to introduce a number of reforms to the major projects assessment and approval process to stimulate investment in the State.

The Proposed Reforms

The reforms, as proposed in the Consultation Paper & Draft Exposure Bill document:

"... will deliver on the Government’s commitment to provide for in-principle approval for major development proposals, subject to the conditions or requirements for full approval being met. 
  • revised Ministerial call-in powers to clarify the types of projects that are eligible to be assessed by an expert planning panel appointed by the Tasmanian Planning Commission and by other relevant regulators;
  • an expanded suite of approvals through a single coordinated process and single permit - including (in part) approvals under planning, environmental, Aboriginal cultural heritage;
  • greater certainty for proponents through a “no reasonable prospect” test early in the process and prior to preparation of a Major Project Impact Statement; and
  • improved community consultation and engagement, which includes public exhibition of the Major Project Proposal, draft Assessment Guidelines, Major Project Impact Statement and draft Assessment Report."

Definition of “Major Projects”

Major projects and their importance are defined at page 4 of the Consultation Paper & Draft Exposure Bill, and:

"... are typically larger, more complex and have broader economic, environmental and social impacts beyond a single municipal area, than other development proposals and frequently require multiple approvals connected with the use and development of the land, including land use planning, environmental and other approvals ... Major projects can have significant economic and social benefits. They contribute to local, state and national income, create employment opportunities during their construction and operation and they can raise productivity and generate revenue through royalties and taxation, thereby helping to fund government programs that benefit the broader community."

Why the need for Change?

The need for change to the process is outlined at page 6 of the Consultation Paper & Draft Exposure Bill:

"... Since the introduction of the Projects of Regional Significance (PORS) process under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 (the Act), the PORS process has not been used effectively, with proponents continuing to use other development assessment pathways that are not designed for (or well suited to), assessing complex projects that require multiple approvals which is leading to community concerns that such projects are not being properly managed and assessed resulting in frustration, inefficiency and unnecessary costs and delays for proponents and acts as a disincentive for developers ... The PORS process is limited to assessing land use planning and environmental issues only, which mean that where other approvals are required before the project can proceed, the proponent is required to seek separate approval for each of these."

What are the changes the Government is proposing?

Page 8 of the Consultation Paper & Draft Exposure Bill outlines the reasoning why the proposed changes are required:

"The Tasmanian Government is committed to introducing a number of important changes to the major projects assessment process contained in the Act, including:
  • expanding the suite of approvals included in a permit;
  • providing for “in-principle” approval of a major project;
  • expanding Ministerial call-in powers;
  • introducing a “no reasonable prospect” test; and
  • staging the recovery of assessment fees and providing more certain timeframes.
The Government intends to retain and build on a number of the key features of the PORS process, including retaining the role of an independent Assessment Panel and strengthening community input  and engagement in the process."

Expected Outcome of the proposed Changes

It is anticipated the proposed changes will result in an efficient and effective assessment process that is more attractive to proponents while the reforms will also result in a rigorous assessment process that maintains existing high levels of protection for the environment, cultural and heritage assets.

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Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Draft Bill 2017 (Tasmania) and supporting materials as published on TimeBase LawOne Service.

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