Comparisons with the existing Projects of Regional Significance (PORS) process
The Major Projects Bill aims to review the current Projects of Regional Significance (PORS) process to improve and build on the independent assessment of major projects like large public infrastructure developments.
What advantages does the Major Projects Bill provide over the current Projects of Regional Significance process?
- A new stage where the Minister must consult with adjoining land owners / occupiers, planning authorities in the region, and relevant government agencies and other bodies prior to project declaration.
- Mandatory consultation with the Tasmanian Planning Commission (Commission) where a planning authority’s capacity to process a project needs consideration.
- A stage where the planning authorities and relevant agencies are invited to comment on the Major Project Impact Statement provided by the proponent prior to public exhibition.
- The opportunity for relevant regulators to seek additional information from the proponent so they can properly assess the project.
- Councils are given 7 days longer to nominate a Council member to sit on the Independent Panel (28 days not 21 days).
- An additional 2 months is provided for the Independent Panel and regulators to assess the project including the stages for public exhibition and public hearings.
- The Independent Panel is required to operate in accordance with the Tasmanian Planning Commission Act 1997.
- The Independent Panel is required to publish the reasons for its decision.
- Greater transparency in the range of permits being sought by the proponent as some of these are not currently processes that provide for public input.
More certainty and greater efficiency for everyone
- The opportunity for any Regulator or the Independent Panel to advise of ‘no reasonable prospect of approval’ at an early stage ensuring that the proponent, the Independent Panel, the Regulators, and the public are not subjected to a lengthy and expensive process when it is clear the project is fatally flawed.
- Under the Projects of Regional Significance process, a fatal flaw would either stop a project later on, after much expense and time, or would later place separate Regulators under pressure to grant a permit because it had already received some permits but not all that are required.
More stringent tests of compliance
- The requirement that a major project is ‘not inconsistent’ with a regional land use strategy as opposed to the assessment criteria under PORS simply ‘having regard’ to that strategy.
- The provision that any individual regulator can require a refusal of the entire major project permit as opposed to the current situation where some permits are approved without regard to the other permits that are required.
How has the current Major Projects Bill provided for the Governments initial intentions?
The current Major Projects Bill has predominantly provided for the Governments initial intentions with some modifications in response to feedback from the past 2 public consultation rounds on the Bill, as follows:
Expand the suite of approvals included in a permit
Where the Project of Regional Significance (PORS) process only provided conditions on the permit from the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA) process, the current Major Project process will provide assessment of issues involving European Historic Heritage, Aboriginal Heritage, Taswater, Gas pipeline safety, Threatened Species as well as the EMPCA process.
Introduce a no-reasonable prospect test
The Major Project process provides very early in the process for the Independent Panel or a Regulator to advise the Minister that there is no prospect of the project gaining approval. Then the Minister may revoke the Major Project status and end the process.
Stage the recovery of fees and provide more certain timeframes
The Major Project process provides for fees to be set by regulation, which will provide for a staged fee payment arrangement.
Provide for ‘in-principle approvals’ and expand Ministerial ‘Call in powers’ – for when Development Application’s experience unreasonable delay
The ‘in-principle approvals’ and Ministers ‘call-in powers' that relate to unreasonable delays with Development Application’s (DA) has been removed from an earlier draft of the Major Projects Bill following feedback from the earlier rounds of consultation.
Can the Major Project process be stopped at an early stage?
Yes, unlike the Project of Regional Significance (PORS) and Projects of State Significance (POSS) process, the Independent Panel in the Major Project 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 Independent Panel considers that the project was ineligible to be declared as a major project or acting as the ‘planning’ assessor, the Independent Panel considers there is no reasonable prospect of the major Project being approved. Where this occurs, the Independent Panel advises the Minister, who in turn can revoke the Major Project status and the process ends.
Is the Major Project process quicker than the Development Application process and able to ‘fast track’ a proposal?
No, a Standard Development Application (DA) process is 28-42 days. These decisions are open to an appeal to the Resource Management Planning Appeals Tribunal (RMPAT) which can add up to 90 days to the process.
The Major Projects process will take 293 days to run, which is longer than a DA process, longer than a combined planning scheme amendment and DA process, and longer than the current Project of Regional Significance (PORS) process (171 days).
There are no ‘short cuts’ in the Major Projects process to enable the process to ‘fast track’. Fast track implies cutting corners and shortening key opportunities for involvement, which the Major Project process does not do.