Amongst the specific tasks relevant to the Environment and Heritage Protection portfolio, Premier Campbell Newman has asked Minister Andrew Powell to implement the LNP’s election commitment to reduce red tape (or in this case cut Greentape).
Minister Powell’s plan is based on the previous Government’s plan to cut Greentape.
Under the existing legislation most Environmental Approvals must go through a site assessment. The LNP has adopted the previous Government’s proposed changes to legislation to offer three ways to apply for approval of environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) – including an automatic approval process - depending on the size and environmental risk posed by business activities.
The Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 was first introduced into parliament in October 2011. The Bill lapsed when the Queensland state election was called.
On 29 May 2012 the Qld Government introduced a recycled version: Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 into the 54th parliament.
The new bill apparently has some minor corrections and clarifications which came to light during the development of materials for implementation of the Greentape Reduction project. These amendments do not change the intent or objectives of the Labor’s original Greentape Reduction Bill or project.
The changes in the LNP’s Bill include:
· introduction of the term ‘eligible environmentally relevant activity (ERA)’ referring to activities which have set eligibility criteria and are able to comply with the criteria. These activities will be eligible to make a standard application;
· removal of the requirement to provide statutory declarations in standard applications to allow for applicants to complete their applications online;
· correction of responsibility to manage the suitable operator register to ensure it is centrally maintained by the department.
Following machinery-of-government changes and the disassembly of the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), the Greentape Reduction project will now be managed and delivered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP).
While the bill has been referred to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee, a Greentape Reduction Team will be working on the implementation phase of the project.
The Greentape reduction team has estimated that following full implementation in March 2013, around half of all ERAs (around 410 applications a year) will be able to go through the standard (automatic) application process, saving each applicant an average of $20,000 in application preparation costs, 68 days in processing time and 150 pages in avoided application materials.
Amendments to the approval process will see the timing of public notification changed so that it occurs earlier in the assessment process. This will reduce assessment timeframes by around three months.
Around 2400 small mining operators will no longer have to complete a 15 page administrative requirement with the removal of the need for an environmental management plan for resource activities.
Overall, the Greentape reduction is estimated to save Qld businesses $11.7m per annum.
Mr Powell said he had consulted with industry, community and environmental groups and taken their views on board in drafting the Bill.
However, the Qld Conservation Council (QCC) is gravely concerned about moves to wind back environmental laws, in the name of reducing Greentape at a State and Federal Level. QCC are alarmed at the lack of consultation with environment organisations or the broader community.
On 13 April the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released a communiqué announcing its intention to implement changes to environmental laws across Australia. The changes are directed at both Federal and State laws with an emphasis on streamlining environmental assessment.
In upcoming ASBG workshops and subsequent issues of the Sustainable Business Weekly, ASBG Qld will focus on specific issues arising from the proposed Qld Greentape reduction legislation such as:
· Licence / Authorities changes;
· Waste (financial assurances);
· Contaminated land;
· Air and water pollution;
· EIS changes.