13 August, 2012

Development Reform, Environmental Authorities, Waste Policy

Development Reform


Last week’s newsletter discussed the passing of laws in the Qld Parliament to cut green-tape for Qld businesses. 

This week the Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning: Jeff Seeney announced amendments to the Sustainable Planning Regulation to remove a range of triggers requiring referral of development applications to State agencies.


Referral triggers to be removed include: 

·     Advice referrals for conservation estate areas, cultural heritage premises, and wetlands - Department of Environment and Heritage Protection;

·     Advice referral for premises affected by acid sulphate soils - Department of Natural Resources and Mines;

    Concurrence referral for particular applications for preliminary approval -Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning; and

    Concurrence referrals for purposes of community uses, places of worship, and education-care service premises-child care centres - Department of Transport and Main Roads.


This ties in with the new Green Tape reduction legislation, such that when one is seeking new approvals for a ‘material change of use’: all Environmental Relevant Activities (ERA’s) are authorised by Environmental Authorities (EAs) under the Sustainable Planning Act. 

Therefore the development application will also be deemed to constitute an EA application.

Accordingly, the development permit will approve the use of the land, while the EA will condition the carrying out of the ERA. Further, as EAs will attach to an operator, not the land (unlike development permits), registration certificates will no longer be required.

Single project EAs for ‘ERA projects’ where an EA has been issued for an ERA project, the EA holder cannot apply for a separate EA to authorise additional activities for the project. Instead, the EA holder will need to apply to amend the existing EA for the project;

EA applications will now be categorised according to environmental risk, with the assessment level corresponding to that risk. The categories are:

·         Standard applications;
·         Applications for which the standard must be varied (known as variation applications); and
·         Site-specific applications;

Amendments have been proposed to the definition of a ‘material change of use’ in the Sustainable Planning Act to exclude ERAs.   Consequently, the start of a new ERA or minor amendments to operating conditions can occur without always triggering the need for a development permit.

Streamlining EA application processes

The Environmental Authority (EA) application and assessment process for particular ERAs will commence with a decision as to whether the proposed activity is an ‘eligible ERA’. The concept of ineligible ERAs will replace the concept of ‘Level 1’ or higher risk activities currently contained in the EP Act, and will include those ERAs:

·         That do not meet eligibility criteria (as prescribed under a regulation) in effect for the activity;
·         For which there are no eligibility criteria are in effect; or
·         Carried out in relation to a ‘significant project’ under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld).

The site specific application process - which is the highest level of assessment applicable for EAs - will apply to ineligible ERAs. The two lower levels of assessment (that is, the standard application or variation application process, as appropriate) will be used in assessing eligible ERAs.

Detailed assessment will not be undertaken where activities meet the eligibility criteria and standard conditions will be automatically imposed.

Where the activity does not meet all of the standard conditions, minimal assessment (to the extent of any variations required) will be undertaken. This simplified process will reduce the lead time and administration involved in obtaining approval for lower risk activities.

For many smaller scale projects, these changes will be significant. Larger scale projects may experience fewer benefits from the changes.

Queensland’s environmental approvals system has evolved substantially over the last decade. The changes proposed in the Bill seek to reduce the regulatory burden and timeframes applicable relation to environmental approvals.

The Bill potentially represents a positive step in improving the efficiency of Queensland’s environmental regulatory framework. However, the efficiency of the framework relies on the ability of Government departments to deliver on the intent of the legislation (with limited resources).

National Waste Policy

The Australian Council of Recycling Inc (ACOR) report that the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG’s) Standing Council on Environment and Water has released the latest National Waste Policy Implementation Report 2011 on 20 July 2012.

The report outlines progress against the National Waste Policy and the National Waste Policy Implementation Plan milestones to the end of 2011.

The Federal Government believes the results show the clear benefits of a collaborative approach across government and industry.  Though there is a lot more coordination to go.

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