Major Project Assessment Reform
Major Projects Bill - Submissions now closed
A Bill that will provide for independent assessment of major projects in Tasmania, by replacing the current Projects of Regional Significance process is expected to be tabled in Parliament later this year.
The draft Bill was subject to two rounds of consultation over the last 2 years which identified a range of improvements that have been incorporated into the current draft Bill, a copy of which can be found here:
Feedback from the third round of consultation will inform the final Bill, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament later this year.
For further information please phone the Planning Policy Unit on 03 6166 1429.
A follow up Q and A was conducted by the Planning Institute of Australia on Friday, 8 May 2020. The above link is to the questions that required further responses.
The Planning Policy Unit has prepared further information to provide clarity about the proposed Major Projects legislation.
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
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).
Below is a link to the Planning Institue of Australia presentation by Brian Risby, 3 April 2020
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 and PORS eligibility criteria
|Major Projects – section 60K||PORS – section 60C|
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
|Environmental Protection Agency||Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994|
|Taswater||Water and Sewerage Industry Act 2008|
|Heritage Council||Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995|
|Aboriginal Heritage Council||Aboriginal Relics Act 1975|
|Threatened Species and Private Land Conservation Section||Threatened Species Protection Act 1995|
Nature Conservation Act 2002
|Gas Pipeline Licensee||Gas 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;
- 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.
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.