ARE the stars aligning for a dramatic overhaul to the approvals process which caused so much angst during the boom? As the government takes receipt of the first concrete advice from three different working groups, there is growing optimism within industry
ARE the stars aligning for a dramatic overhaul to the approvals process which caused so much angst during the boom?
As the government takes receipt of the first concrete advice from three different working groups, there is growing optimism within industry that several factors are helping to boost the mood for change.
While the key element is clearly the election of Colin Barnett's government, there are also views that the right bureaucrats appear to also be in place and the current downturn has provided breathing space for them to drive big changes.
Last week, Mines Minister Norman Moore took delivery of a special report into the mining and petroleum approvals process, which reflects the work of a Western Australian industry group chaired by former Resources Minister Peter Jones.
The report, which is expected to be provided to a ministerial committee working on the same issue and chaired by Mr Barnett, is understood to have provided a blueprint for immediate and longer-term changes to the assessment system - including overhauling elements of the Environment Protection Authority.
While the report's final recommendations remain undisclosed, it is believed there was strong backing at the working group level for incumbent EPA chairman Paul Vogel, who has already started down the path of reform of the environmental impact assessment process.
The resources sector report, which has been closely guarded due to earlier leaks to the media, follows a review of the planning system, which has recently produced a consultative paper for public comment.
Department of Planning and Infrastructure director general Eric Lumsden, a key player in the planning system review, is highly regarded by the property industry leadership, which believes he could be an agent for change.
The resources sector review is understood to have looked at a number of short-term changes that could help improve the assessment process, many of which were recommended in previous reports such as the Keating Review of the project development approvals system earlier this decade.
A source with knowledge of the process said there was a lot of support for the proposed changes to the environmental impact assessment process announced a month ago.
"There is a lot of support within industry and government for Paul Vogel and what he is trying to achieve," the source said.
Longer-term ideas, such as reviewing all the relevant acts, creating a one-stop shop for development approvals and giving the EPA more responsibility for its own resources and decision-making, were expected to have been covered by the report.
Environment Minister Donna Faragher has formed an environmental stakeholder advisory committee, with representatives from conservation and industry groups, to consider the outcomes of the environmental impact assessment review as well as the native vegetation clearing review, which she has just received.