THE Australian and New South Wales Governments last week released for public comment an updated bilateral agreement on environmental assessments under national environment law, as part of the proposed 'one-stop shop' reforms for environmental assessment and approvals.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said that the new enhanced agreement will replace the assessment bilateral agreement currently in place and deliver a more efficient process and greater certainty for business while maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection.
"This revised agreement builds upon the streamlining benefits of the current agreement, and introduces additional efficiency measures for environmental regulation in New South Wales," Mr Hunt said.
"It is concrete evidence that our governments are progressively delivering on our shared objective to provide efficient, thorough and transparent environmental regulation in NSW while minimising duplication.
"Under this agreement, NSW will be accredited to conduct a project assessment under national laws and provide the Australian Government with a recommendation on whether to approve a project and what conditions should be attached to that decision under federal environment law," Mr Hunt said.
NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward said that New South Wales will provide the Australian Government with rigorous and robust advice under national environment law.
"This will include jointly seeking expert advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development for projects that are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource," Ms Goward said.
"Importantly, opportunities and timelines for the community to have a say about major developments are not proposed to change. This is about reducing needless hold-ups caused by two governments passing projects back and forth between them while they are being assessed.
"It means that projects in NSW will go through a single, NSW process, to ensure that high environmental standards are maintained.
"This new agreement reflects New South Wale's determination to maximise the efficiency of the environmental assessment and approval process, and include a broader scope to ensure that more projects benefit from streamlined assessment."
Ms Goward said the agreement also recognises New South Wales' rigorous and transparent approach to determining offset requirements under its newly-finalised NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects.
More information is available from the Department of the Environment website at <http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/environment-assessments/bilateral-agreements/nsw>.