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State territories back govt plan for environmental approvals

13th December 2013

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

  

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – All state territories, including Western Australia, have now signed off on the federal government’s “one-stop shop” for environmental approvals.

Prime Minister Tony Abbot on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, to implement the plan.

The state governments from New South Wales and Queensland have already thrown their support behind the federal government’s plan to fast-track the eradication of red and green tape for environmental approvals.

The government approached the streamlining process in three stages, with the signing of the MoU’s making up the first stage.

The second stage would see the federal and state governments agree on bilateral assessments and updating those that were already in place, while the third stage would see agreements on bilateral approvals within 12 months with willing states.

Abbot pointed out that establishing a single approval process that meets all state, territory and commonwealth laws is a key part of the Coalition’s deregulation agenda to strengthen the Australian economy. It would create certainty for investment, grow the economy, reduce costs for business, boost productivity and create jobs.

“By eliminating duplication, we can deliver more timely approvals and enable Australian businesses to expedite their work while maintaining the current high standard of environmental protection.”

The federal government on Friday also signed a new assessment bilateral agreement with Queensland, with Abbot saying that this was a significant next step in the establishment of a comprehensive one-stop shop for environmental approvals, incorporating the federal environmental requirements.

A bilateral assessment agreement with New South Wales was currently being finalised.

The Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) has welcomed the state government’s decision, saying it was a necessary step towards removing unnecessary duplication in environmental assessment, and delivering much needed certainty, efficiency and transparency of decision-making for resources projects.

“Despite concerns raised by environmental lobby groups, the one-stop shop will not see a ‘watering down’ of environmental standards. The establishment of bilateral agreements will realise significant efficiencies in the process while maintaining the same level of Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act environmental protection,” said CME CEO Reg Howard-Smith.

“When fully implemented, this policy will help deliver more streamlined and cost-efficient approvals, reducing the commonwealth’s involvement on a project-by-project basis, and enabling a focus on more strategic outcomes for biodiversity.”

Edited by Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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