A DRAFT bilateral agreement that provides a single process for environmental approvals in the Australian Capital Territory was last week released for public comment by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt and ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman.
The draft agreement facilitates the establishment of a 'one-stop shop' for environmental approvals by accrediting ACT processes for the approval of proposed actions that would otherwise be assessed by the Australian Government for approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Once finalised and implemented, the one-stop shop reforms will simplify the environmental approvals process by ensuring that only one approval – covering both Commonwealth and Territory requirements – is needed for proposed actions that are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.
Mr Hunt described the release of the draft agreement as an important milestone in the final stage of setting up the ACT's new environmental approvals regime, adding that it will eliminate duplication and reduce complexity and cost.
"Under current arrangements, major projects can be delayed through multiple and duplicative approval processes, even if the project is environmentally acceptable," said Mr Hunt.
Mr Hunt also welcomed a Bill proposing changes to the ACT's Planning and Development Act 2007 that was introduced by the ACT Government last week to support the implementation of the one-stop shop.
ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said the approval bilateral agreement will put in place measures to maintain high environmental standards, while reducing regulatory duplication.
"This approval bilateral agreement will ensure that only one decision is required for environmental approvals, accounting for both ACT matters and matters of national environmental significance," said Mr Gentleman.
"Last month we put in place a new assessment bilateral agreement and we are now working towards an agreement for environmental approvals."
The finalised approval bilateral agreement will include a list of ACT processes that have been accredited by the Federal Environment Minister. These processes are known as 'accredited processes'. No separate Australian Government referral, assessment or approval will be required for proposed actions that fall under an accredited process.
The draft ACT approval bilateral agreement is open for public comment until 12 September 2014. More information is available from the Department of the Environment website at <http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/environment-assessments/bilateral-agreements/ACT>.