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