Major Project Assessment Reform

A Bill that will provide for independent assessment of major projects in Tasmania is expected to be tabled in Parliament later this year.

The draft Bill has been subject to two rounds of consultation which identified a range of improvements that have been incorporated into the draft Bill, a copy of which can be found here:

Draft Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Bill 2020 (PDF, 2.8 MB) .

Any comments on the draft Bill can be provided until 9 April 2020, by email to planning.unit@justice.tas.gov.au or by mail to –

Planning Policy Unit
Department of Justice
GPO BOX 825
HOBART   TAS   7001

Feedback will inform the final Bill, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament in May 2020.

For further information please phone the Planning Policy Unit on 03 6166 1429.

Fact check

The Planning Policy Unit has become aware of incorrect advice and interpretation of the Bill circulating in the community and have provided the following response to clarify and correct any misunderstandings.

1.   Minister has too much power

  • Minister's powers are unchanged from current Project of Regional Significance (PORS) process:
    • Minister can only declare a project where it meets the eligibility criteria based on the guidelines issued by the Tasmanian Planning Commission
    • This process is subject to appeal under the Judicial Review Act
    • Minister’s decision making role finishes with project declaration, with the exception of revoking the ‘major project’ status at any time
    • After declaration of a project the  Minister can only require the Panel to add a member with a specific skill set but not the individual; and grant extensions of time during the process to the Panel, Regulators and the proponent
    • Panel members are appointed by the independent Tasmanian Planning Commission and not the Minister

2.   TPC is sidelined – lack of independence

  • Under the current PORS process, the Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC) must establish a Development Assessment Panel to assess these types of projects.
  • Process for appointing panel has not changed from PoRS, it is not the Commission itself but an independent Panel appointed by it, and restricts the appointment to the Panel of a person who is on the Commission as one of the Government representatives.
  • The new process requires the panel to act independently from Government:
    • It requires the panel to abide by procedures stipulated by Tasmanian Planning Commission on how to conduct the assessment, as well as adhere to Part 3 of the Tasmanian Planning commission Act 1997 which sets out procedures and conduct of hearings.
    • All panel members are bound by the procedures.

3.   Why do we need a Panel? Why can’t the TPC assess it?

  • A panel is used in the current PORS process, not the TPC
  • The Panel composition has not changed from current process.  It consists of:
    • A TPC Commissioner or a person nominated by the Commission (provides planning expertise similar to any Commission assessment where Commission staff sit on Panels)
    • A local Government representative (provides local expertise and adds local representation)
    • An expert in the project field (provides expert knowledge relating to the type of project)
    • Plus up to two additional experts if required
  • The Commission has a broad membership but the practice is that only some of the Commissioners sit on Panels with senior staff of the Commission. The Commission is predominately comprised of planning experts. Panels are used for all current assessment processes outside of the local council process including the current Appeal Tribunal and Commission. The benefits of an assessment panel assessing the project is that:
    • The local government representative will provide local context and knowledge.
    • Bringing in a subject matter expert will increase the knowledge base of the assessment panel to ensure the impacts are properly addressed.

4.   Avoiding normal required permits

  • All assessments required under the ‘project associated Acts’ are conducted by the normal regulators but their decisions are co-ordinated through the MP process just as the EPA and Heritage Council decisions are co-ordinated through the council DA process.
  • The panel must follow the advice of the regulators. Consequently if a regulator recommends that the panel refuse the proposal, the Panel cannot override the recommendation.
  • Independent regulators include:
    • Environmental Protection Authority
    • Heritage Tasmania
    • Aboriginal Heritage
    • Threatened Species
    • Tas Water
    • Gas Pipeline

    The first two are already integrated into the normal LUPAA council development assessment process. This introduces other approvals into a similar integrated framework.

5.   Limiting rights of the public – feedback and appeal

  • The level of public consultation in the process has not decreased from the current PORS process
  • As with all current discretionary assessment processes, the public make submissions on the proposal before the Panel carries out its assessment and before the normal regulators carry out their assessments and advise the Panel. Additionally, the public have an opportunity to attend and participate in public hearings before the panel finalises their assessment
  • The Panel’s hearing process will provide for the public to test issues and evidence, similar to an appeal process, as is currently the case in the PORS process and all other Commission hearings into planning scheme amendments.

6.  It’s a way to fast track development

  • Fast track implies cutting corners and shortening key opportunities for involvement.
  • The proposed process has longer and more measured timeframe than the current PORS process (293 days compared to 171 days) and far longer than a normal development application undertaken by local council (42 days)
  • The 293 days includes a 90 day period for the Panel to conduct public hearings and test issues and evidence, which is a similar timeframe to an appeal process with RMPAT or an amendment process with the TPC
  • The new process includes a 28 day public exhibition of the proposal as opposed to 14 days for a normal development application
  • It is a comprehensive assessment conducted by an independent Panel with rights for Judicial review

7.   Taking away power from Local Government and giving it to State Government

  • The process is the same as that already available through the PoRS process. All Government’s across Australia have processes where significant projects are elevated to independent panels which assess them against criteria which set out the broader public interest as opposed to a local council interest
  • Local government accepts that some parts of the planning system (amendments) and some projects (Projects of State Significance) should be assessed by independent experts such as the Commission. The assessment panel is independent from State Government and includes at least one Local Government representative
  • The Minister has no involvement with the Panel or the Regulators while they are making their decision, other than to grant an extension of time
  • This process involves greater independent scrutiny and more public process than normal Local Government assessment

8.   Any project could be declared a Major Project at the Minister’s discretion

  • Someone needs to declare a project is eligible and it should not be the same person or body that assesses it. The Minister does not assess it, he/she simply refers it to the Commission.
  • PORS eligibility criteria are retained and we have added two points:
    • a new criterion where a number of permits are required
    • Inserted requirement for the Minister to consult with the Commission regarding the relevant Council’s capacity to assess a given project

    We have also clarified other criteria

  • As a result, under MP process a proposal will need to meet two out of six criteria as opposed to one out of five for Project of Regional Significance
  • The Minister can only make a decision on whether the project is deemed eligible based on the eligibility criteria and having regard to the guidelines prepared by the Commission.
  • Unlike the PORS process the MP process provides criteria the make a project ineligible rather than letting the Minister decide if the project is ineligible
  • Unlike the PORS and POSS process, the independent assessment panel in the MP process can declare the project to have ‘no reasonable prospect’ very early on in the process if advised by a regulator to do so or if the Panel considers that the project was ineligible to be declared as a major project

What will the Bill do and why do we need it?

The Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Bill 2020 will improve and build on, and eventually replace the current Projects of Regional Significance (PORS) process under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993. The PORS process came into effect in January 2010, but has never been used.

The Major Projects process is needed to deal with development proposals of impact, planning significance or complexity. It is particularly suited to large public infrastructure projects such as the proposed new Bridgewater Bridge, or large renewable energy projects including windfarms and pumped hydro networks.

Under the proposed process, such projects can be nominated as Major Projects by the project proponents, the relevant Council or the Minister for Planning.

Projects deemed to be Major Projects by the Minister will be assessed by a skills-based panel appointed by the Tasmanian Planning Commission, which will also coordinate all related permit approvals processes required by other regulators provided under the Act.

The new process will provide the community with the confidence that proposals will undergo a rigorous assessment by independent experts, with opportunities for public input.

It will also provide greater certainty for developers with a coordinated approach for multiple permit assessments, set timeframes and a ‘no reasonable prospect test’ early on to avoid unnecessary costs associated with assessing projects that are clearly not likely to be approved.

The coordinated permit process ensures that all development-related approvals for a project are assessed concurrently, ensuring potential problems can be discovered early.

The proposed assessment process set out in the Bill is outlined in the flowchart below.

Major projects process chart March 2020

Major Projects timeline

A more detailed flowchart can be found here (PDF, 577.7 KB) .

A detailed fact sheet on the Major Projects proposed process can be found here (PDF, 122.5 KB).

Major Projects and Projects of Regional Significance

The proposed Major Projects assessment process seeks to improve and build on the existing Projects of Regional Significance assessment process.

Key improvements include:

  • Early advice from panel and regulators around potential issues with project – can end project early if ‘no likely prospect’ of approval
  • Draft assessment report publicly exhibited
  • Development approvals are run concurrently as part of a single process
  • Additional regulators include Heritage Tasmania, Threatened Species and Private Land Conservation Section, Aboriginal Heritage Council as well as the Gas Pipeline Licensee
  • More realistic timeframes
  • Staged fee payments
  • Adjoining landowners/occupiers are consulted throughout process

Comparison chart of Major Projects and Projects of Regional Significance assessment process

Major Projects - summary of process stages with PORS
(PDF, 133.2 KB)

Major Projects and PORS eligibility criteria

Major Projects – section 60KPORS – section 60C
  1. Subject to section 60L, a project is eligible to be declared to be a major project under section 60M if, in the opinion of the Minister, the project has 2 or more of the following attributes:
    1. the project will make a significant financial or social contribution to a region or the State;
    2. the project is of strategic planning significance to a region or the State;
    3. the project will significantly affect the provision of public infrastructure, including, but not limited to, by requiring significant augmentation or alteration of public infrastructure;
    4. the project has, or is likely to have, significant, or potentially significant, environmental, economic or social effects;
    5. the approval or implementation of the project will require assessments of the project, or of a use, development or activity that is to be carried out as part of the project, to be made under 2 or more project-associated Acts or by more than one planning authority;
    6. the characteristics of the project make it unsuitable for a planning authority to determine.
  2. For the purposes of subsection (1)(f), the Minister may only be of the opinion that the characteristics of the project make it unsuitable for a planning authority to determine the project if, after –
    1. considering advice provided under section 60I(3); and
    2. consulting the Commission –
      the Minister is of the opinion that the project is of such a scale or complexity, or has such characteristics, that, if the planning authority were required to assess under this Act an application for a permit in relation to the project, the planning authority would be unlikely to have the capacity or capability to carry out the assessment adequately or to do so in a timely manner.
  1. A project is eligible to be declared to be a project of regional significance if–
    1. the project is of regional planning significance; or
    2. the project requires high-level assessment; or
    3. the project would have a significant environmental impact.
  2. A project is only of regional planning significance if, in the opinion of the Minister –
    1. the project would make a significant economic or social contribution to a region; or
    2. the project is of a scale that would be likely to significantly affect the provision of infrastructure, including social infrastructure, in the region.
  3. A project only requires high-level assessment if, in the opinion of the Minister, the project –
    1. is of such a scale or complexity; or
    2. has such characteristics –

      that the planning authority that would be required under this Act to assess an application for an ordinary permit in relation to the project is unlikely to have the capability or the resources to adequately perform the assessment.

  1. Declaration of a Major Project
    • Request, referral or nomination of a major project proposal to the Minister,
    • proponent prepares major project proposal,
    • The Minister seeks additional information (if required),
    • Comment sought from adjoining land owners/occupiers, relevant planning authorities and relevant agencies/bodies, including seeking additional information if required,
    • Commission prepares determination guidelines to aid interpretation of the eligibility criteria,
    • Minister determines proposal against the eligibility criteria,
    • Minister declares project to be a major project or not to be a major project (ends process).
  2. Preparation of Assessment Guidelines
    • Independent Development Assessment Panel assembled by the Tasmanian Planning Commission,
    • Major project proposal provided to the Panel, relevant planning authorities and relevant regulators,
    • Any relevant regulator can request additional information from the proponent, through the Panel,
    • Early advice as to the potential issues with the major project
      • Notices of ‘no prospect’ given to proponent,
      • Proponent provides more information, or ends process, or provides an amended proposal,
      • Panel may issue notice of no prospect to Minister,
      • Minister may revoke ‘major project’ status – which ends the process,
    • Panel consults with relevant planning authorities and relevant agencies/bodies,
    • Preparation of draft assessment guidelines,
    • Public exhibition of draft assessment guidelines inviting representations, only for bilateral agreement projects (Commonwealth assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999),
    • Assessment guidelines finalised and published by the Panel.
  3. Consideration of a Major Project Permit
    • Major project impact statement prepared by proponent to meet the matters set out in the assessment guidelines,
    • Comment sought from planning authorities and relevant agencies/bodies, including seeking additional information if required, through the Panel,
    • Panel determines suitability of the major project proposal for public exhibition, which includes the preparation of a draft report,
    • Public exhibition of major project proposal inviting representations,
    • Public hearings conducted by the Panel, which includes any clarification of details or seeking additional information if required, through the Panel,
    • Panel issues final major project permit or refusal, including a final report from the Panel giving reasons for their decision.

Note

Prior to the assessment process commencing for a project, the Government will establish a team to assist the proponent to navigate their way through the complex process in a timely manner. The team will be able to provide a coordinator role and assist the proponent with liaising with government regulators/departments prior to lodging the proposal and also during each stage of the assessment process. The team will also provide advice to the proponent with regards to the documentation requirements for the proposal to be ready for assessment at each stage of the process.

Throughout the process, any administration of the process required for the assessment Panel will be carried out by the Tasmanian Planning Commission.

Throughout the process any administration of the process required for the Minister will be carried out by the Planning Policy Unit.

Regulators within the Major Projects assessment process.

Relevant regulators are defined in 60ZA of the Bill. Most of these bodies administer project-associated acts and either issue separate permits to normal development application processes or give condition advice to planning authorities that is required to be placed on planning permits. These are the EPA, Taswater, Gas Pipeline licensee, Heritage Council, Aboriginal Heritage Council and the Threatened Species and Private Land Conservation Section.

AgencyLegislation
Environmental Protection AgencyEnvironmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994
TaswaterWater and Sewerage Industry Act 2008
Heritage CouncilHistoric Cultural Heritage Act 1995
Aboriginal Heritage CouncilAboriginal Relics Act 1975
Threatened Species and Private Land Conservation SectionThreatened Species Protection Act 1995
Nature Conservation Act 2002
Gas Pipeline LicenseeGas Pipelines Act 2000

Role of the Minister

  • The Bill requires the Minister to declare whether or not a proposal is a major project. The decision of the Minister must be based upon the eligibility criteria set out in the Bill and determination guidelines to assist that are prepared by the independent Tasmanian Planning Commission.
  • The Bill provides for the Minister to revoke the status of major project proposal, upon advice from the Panel, where the Panel’s advice may be guided by advice from a relevant regulator or by request from the proponent.
  • The Minister is required to prepare a report stating the reasons for his/her decision on the eligibility of the proposal to be assessed as a major project.

Role of the Tasmanian Planning Commission

  • The Bill requires the Tasmanian Planning Commission to establish the Development Assessment Panel and to also provide the Minister with determination guidelines to assist with applying the eligibility criteria.
  • Whilst not explicit in the Bill, the Tasmanian Planning Commission will provide administrative support for the assessment Panel throughout the process.

Role of the Proponent

  • The Bill sets out the requirements for the proponent (applicant) to prepare a major project proposal for the Minister’s consideration in the first phase of the process.
  • If the Minister declares the project to be a major project then the proponent must prepare a Major Project Impact Statement to support the assessment of the proposal.
  • The proponent must also respond to any request for additional information that may come from the Minister, the Panel or a participating regulator.
  • The proponent’s role may also include attendance at public hearings held by the Panel.

Role of the Panel

  • The Panel must prepare Assessment Guidelines and then assess the proposal against the Act and the assessment guidelines.
  • The Panel is responsible for exhibition of the proposal and conducting hearings into the representations made.
  • The Panel is required to prepare reports into the finalisation of the assessment guidelines and the final major project permit, or the final decision to refuse the proposal.

Role of the Relevant Regulator

  • Regulators must inform the Panel if the proposal ought to not proceed, advise if any additional information is required in each stage of the process, or inform the Panel of any specific conditions that should be placed on the final major project permit.
  • The Bill sets the relevant regulators as –
    • Heritage Council;
    • TasWater;
    • Pipeline licensee within the meaning of the Gas Pipelines Act 2000;
    • Environment Protection Authority;
    • Threatened Species and Private Land Conservation Section; and
    • Aboriginal Heritage Council
  • The relevant regulator may also include attendance at the public hearings held by the Panel.

Role of the Government

  • The Bill also provides for the Minister or the Panel to consult with any other Government agencies or Tasmanian Government Businesses that are not prescribed as a regulator.
  • Their role is to respond to the Minister or the Panel with their issues, which may include a request for additional information.
  • Their role may also include attendance at the public hearings held by the Panel, and to provide the Panel with any additional information that the Panel requests.

Role of the Local Government

  • The Bill requires that the Minister must consult with the relevant Council in its capacity as the local Planning Authority before declaring a project to be a major project. This provides the Planning Authority with the opportunity to request the Minister to not declare the project as a major project. If this occurs, the Planning Authority must give reasons.
  • The Bill requires the Panel to consult with Planning Authorities in the region during the preparation of the assessment guidelines and also during the final assessment of the major project proposal.
  • Planning Authorities may also be required to attend public hearings held by the Panel.

Role of the Community

  • The broader Tasmanian community has the opportunity to make submissions to the major project proposal (including the major impact statement).
  • This may also include attendance at the public hearings held by the Panel.

A number of minor changes have been made throughout the draft Bill to address inconsistencies, remove duplication and improve certainty in regard to timeframes and process.

Various changes have been made to each stage of the assessment process to address concerns raised during consultation. These are summarised below.

Stage 1 – Eligibility

  • The ability for a planning authority to refer a proposal for consideration for declaration as a major project has been reinstated.
  • The ability for the Minister to seek advice from State Agencies and other notifiable bodies in regard to a proposal’s eligibility has been reinstated.
  • TasWater and TasNetworks have been added to the list of notifiable bodies.
  • A clause has been added to clarify that the Minister’s determination in regard to a proposal’s eligibility must be informed by guidelines produced by the Tasmanian Planning Commission, which will quantify the eligibility criteria.
  • The previous exclusion of projects on the basis of height alone has been removed, as a proposal must now satisfy at least two of the eligibility criteria.
  • Clarification that while a proposal may be declared if it would be prohibited under the relevant planning scheme, it cannot be declared if it would be in contravention of a State Policy or Tasmanian Planning Policy or inconsistent with the relevant regional land use strategy.

Stage 2 – Preliminary Assessment

  • New clauses have been added to clarify the procedures and powers of the Development Assessment Panel.
  • Clauses in relation to the Tasmanian Planning Commission preparing guidelines to guide regulators’ assessment have been deleted.
  • The required contents of the Assessment Guidelines have been amended to delete all references to regulators’ providing the panel with draft conditions or restrictions.

Stage 3 – Assessment

  • The required contents of the Project Impact Statement have been amended to delete all references to addressing draft conditions or restrictions.
  • The post-hearing consultation on proposed permit conditions has been removed.

All references to ‘in-principle permit commencement conditions’ have been removed, and clauses in relation to a permit coming into effect amended accordingly.

The draft Bill has been subject to two rounds of consultation which identified a range of improvements that have been incorporated into the draft Bill.

The first period of public consultation on the previous draft of the Major Projects Bill closed on 2 October 2017 and 198 submissions were received. The submissions raised a number of issues that have been carefully considered by the Tasmanian Government. In response to the submissions received, the draft Major Projects Bill was amended and re-structured to clarify its operation. Given the amendments that were made to the revised draft Bill, it was released for a second period of public consultation that closed on 29 January 2018 and over 150 submissions were received. To assist the second public consultation process, the Policy Planning Unit within the Department of Justice prepared a second consultation paper and seven Fact Sheets that explain key aspects of the major projects assessment process.

These documents can be downloaded below.

Second consultation documents

The documents that supported the second period of public consultation on the draft Major Projects Bill (which closed on 29 January 2018) can be downloaded below.

Download the Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Revised Draft Bill 2018 (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Download the Major Projects - Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Bill 2018: Second Consultation Paper & Revised Draft Exposure Bill (DOCX, 4.1 MB)

First consultation documents

The documents that supported the first period of public consultation on the draft Major Projects Bill (which closed on 2 October 2017) can be downloaded below.

Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Draft Bill 2017 (PDF, 1.6 MB)

Major Projects - Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Bill 2017: Consultation Paper & Draft Exposure Bill (PDF, 1.5 MB)