12/08/2009 - 16:49

Moore tables approvals process report

12/08/2009 - 16:49

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Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore has today released a report making 15 key recommendations into improving the state's exploration and development approvals process.

Moore tables approvals process report

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore has today released a report making 15 key recommendations into improving the state's exploration and development approvals process.

Mr Moore tabled the final report by the Industry Working Group in the Legislative Council today.

The group was established in November last year to advise the government of the industry's viewpoint on how to improve the approvals process.

In the report, the Industry Working Group, headed by former Resources Minister Peter Jones, noted the number of reviews that had already taken place in the past decade into the approvals process.

"In summary, the acceptance and implementation of the recommendations from all reports has been dismal," the report said.

"The primary reason for this failure has been a lack of leadership by responsible Ministers and senior departmental officers to ensure the recommendations were implemented. Government agencies and departments have been allowed to continue the present undisciplined, uncoordinated and unaccountable system which has existed since 1986.

"In that year, the then Government brought in the new Environmental Protection Act 1986, which in effect, gave legislative and operational primacy to the Environment Department and to the Environmental Protection Authority.

"The accountable "one-stop-shop" which had existed up to that time and upon which the significant economic development of Western Australia was based, was gradually eroded, and various processes and requirements were implemented which resulted in time delays, greater expenditure by proponents, and a sense of uncertainty and capital risk gradually emerged."

Altogether, the group made 15 recommendations to the approvals process, with the first 12 able to be implemented without legislative changes.

These include the establishment of a natural resources agency to deliver effective environmental management services and approvals and an increased focus on conservation and land management to existing and future national parks and reserves.

The group also recommends the Environmental Protection Authority be a stand alone agency rather than have its resources provided by the Department of Environment and Conservation and the establishment of an approvals reform office to assist ministers drive the approvals reform.

Other recommendations in the first part include the reform of the native title and Aboriginal heritage processes and the appeals process, reduce the objections backlog at the Warden's Court and review the internal approval processes and timelines.

In relation to the recommendations needing legislative amendments, the group calls for a single decision making authority for all mining and petroleum proposals.

"The single decision making authority would have in place an integrated assessment process to ensure key social, economic and environmental issues are considered," the report said.

The group added that the set up of the authority would need careful and detailed investigation.

Other recommendations include amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1986, to reduce duplication, and the Mining Act 1978, to allow for railways in miscellaneous licences which is currently only allowed under State Agreement Acts.

Resource lobby groups today welcomed the tabling of the report.

"Industry is seeking efficiency, transparency, certainty of process, the elimination of duplication, clear lines of authority and single points of contact. These recommendations go a long way in achieving those outcomes," Australian Petroleum Production & Explroation Association WA director Tom Baddeley said.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said the approvals report will give new momentum for reform.

"The recommendations in this new report should be considered as part of a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to reform - noting that many of the recommendations can be implemented without significant change to legislation."

He added that the recommendations encouraging better use of resources, cross-agency access to information and transparent reporting of performance against timelines were pragmatic and long overdue.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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