Bill ramifications ‘huge’

THE draft Bill, which has been released for public comment, provides for identification and classification of contaminated or potentially contaminated sites.

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Water and Rivers Commission will each have a copy of the site database.

According to Freehill Hollingdale & Page property and environment partner Tony van Merwyk, the draft Bill creates substantial obligations and provides penalties for persons who own, occupy or are associated with known or suspected contaminated sites.

A number of property industry bodies are concerned about how the Bill will affect landowners.

However, the Property Council supports the principles of the Bill.

“Basically, our members believe that it is livable and workable,” Property Council of Australia (WA) chief executive Joe Lenzo said.

“We will put a submission in, but I don’t think it will be a submission that will attack the fundamentals of the Bill, but one which tries to ensure property rights aren’t completely taken away.”

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA) had several concerns about the Bill, chief executive Judy Carr said.

“We believe there should be criteria included for decision-making to ensure that the process is transparent,” Ms Carr said.

Combined with Perth’s Bushplan, which will freeze-up an additional 52,000 hectares of land, the Bill will put more pressure on land developers.

“The thing with the development industry is that we always want certainty in the decision process and a timely manner,” Ms Carr said.

“You set the rules and you do it in a timely manner so the developer knows what playing field they are on.

“It’s when there are areas of uncertainty or there is the possibility of considerable delays that we have strong concerns.”

She said it was important for WA to have a vibrant land development industry that could provide affordable land.

“We are all about making sure land more affordable,” she said.

“Unfortunately, these days there are more and more government policies that make the land developer pay for things which may be a government responsibility or a joint responsibility and that increases the price of land.”

The National Environmental Law Association also has some misgivings about the Bill.

In a submission the association said: “An extraordinary amount of discretion has been vested in the CEO who is responsible for a vast number of decisions and approvals under the Bill.

“It is important that this discretion is exercised in a transparent manner, in accordance with principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.”

The Association is also perturbed about the existing appeals system, with the only avenue for appeals with the Minister for the Environment.

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