17/12/2015 - 14:38

EPA review in wake of Roe 8 ruling

17/12/2015 - 14:38

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Premier Colin Barnett has expressed his ‘extreme’ disappointment at yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on the Roe 8 highway project, as the environment minister announced a ‘third party health check’ into the Environmental Protection Authority.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob has called for a third-party 'health check' into the EPA.

Premier Colin Barnett has expressed his ‘extreme’ disappointment at yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on the Roe 8 highway project, as the environment minister announced a ‘third party health check’ into the Environmental Protection Authority.

“I have accepted what Chief Justice Wayne Martin has ruled, and the government will have to deal with that in its own way,” Mr Barnett told a press conference today.

“There will be a delay, although I can’t yet predict how long that will be, and it may require a re-doing of the environmental assessment.

“That will mean hundreds of jobs that would have been available almost immediately will not occur, and indeed while the environment is obviously a key factor in any major project, that is the job of the EPA, and that was the case that the chief justice looked at.”

The premier said the total cost of delays to the project and possible re-tendering would be “millions and millions of dollars”.

Mr Barnett also rejected the suggestion that state government should make changes to EPA policies to get another approval through.

“We won’t do that. We’ve never done anything like that,” he said.

“The government is committed to doing (Roe 8), so if it means that some of the conditions change or are heightened in some way then maybe.

"But we have not yet decided what will be done. Will we redo the whole process? That's something that's got to be considered carefully."

Commenting on accusations that the EPA hadn’t followed its own policies when assessing the environmental impacts of the Roe 8 development, Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the chief justice’s finding was that the EPA did, in fact, go by its own policies, however the issue that occurred was that the EPA had not referenced those policy documents throughout its assessment.

“The question (by the chief justice) wasn’t around following policies or not following policies, the question hinged around referring to considering those policies,” Mr Jacob said.

“The board of the EPA has assured me that they did take their policies into account.

“The issue at hand is that in the EPA’s assessment report they didn’t refer to having taken into account their own policies and therefore there isn’t necessarily an evidential basis to justify having done so.”

Mr Jacob said he would be appointing independent legal and governance auditors to undertake a thorough health check of the policies and procedures of the EPA.

“I have this morning spoken with the EPA chairman and have his full support and that of the board in taking this action,” he said.

“I want a thorough third-party review to be undertaken, not just of the EPA’s policies, but also the Environmental Protection Act, to ensure the environmental assessment reporting process is as rigorous as possible.

“It is crucial that the community and proponents are able to have faith in the operations of what is the state’s primary environmental regulator, and a third-party health check is important in the wake of the chief justice’s decision.’’

The minister and premier’s comments were made on the same day that the state government announced what it has labelled as one of the biggest red tape cuts to the environmental planning approval process ever undertaken in the state.

The draft Perth and Peel Green Growth Plan for 3.5 million, which aims to secure environmental approvals upfront to provide certainty to development and conservation in Perth and Peel for the next 30 years, was released for public comment today.

“What we are committing to is one of the largest expansions to a conservation reserve system surrounding a capital city ever undertaken anywhere in the world,” Mr Barnett said.

“This clearly protects areas of environmental significance and streamlines development approvals across Perth and Peel.”

Planning Minister John Day said the draft plan represented a 21st century approach to land-use planning and environmental protection.

“The plan delivers much greater certainty for the future development of homes, businesses and supporting infrastructure while ensuring the protection of the environment as our population grows by almost 70 per cent in the coming decades,” Mr Day said.

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