27/02/2008 - 15:06

State environmental approvals process under review

27/02/2008 - 15:06

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Environment minister David Templeman and Environmental Protection Authority chairman Dr Paul Vogel have announced a wide-ranging review to streamline the state's environmental approvals processes.

Environment minister David Templeman and Environmental Protection Authority chairman Dr Paul Vogel have announced a wide-ranging review to streamline the state's environmental approvals processes.

Mr Templeman said Western Australia's unprecedented resources boom provided an opportunity to reassess the effectiveness and efficiency of the State's environmental impact assessment processes.

"Our system is widely regarded as among the best and most progressive in the nation, but that doesn't mean we should rest on our laurels," he said.

"This boom means our economy and our population are burgeoning and there is frenetic activity in the mining and oil and gas industries that will only increase in the short term.

"There is also growing complexity in the scope, range and technical aspects of development projects, which can further prolong the approvals process.

"To capitalise on the resources boom and to ensure we keep delivering environmental and social dividends for all Western Australians, we need to take the environmental approvals process to a new level.

The review of the environmental approvals process will identify:

- ways to streamline the process and remove duplication;

- opportunities to better integrate environmental approvals with other approval processes; and

- innovations to better link developments with regional and sustainable environmental objectives.

"We need to look at how we can improve the process to ensure better results for the environment, industry, the economy and the community as a whole," the Minister said.

Mr Templeman said the core objectives of the state's environmental watchdog would not be compromised.

"This is not about cutting corners, it's about improving the way we operate," he said.

"We want to keep striking the fine balance between protecting our environment and promoting sustainable industry, and maintain WA's reputation as a great place to live and a great place to do business."

The Minister said a reference group would be established with representatives from industry, Government, environmental consultancies, environmental groups and academia.

"This will ensure the process is transparent and that there is a balanced and cohesive approach to identifying where we can make improvements," he said.

The review is expected to take up to six months.

Dr Vogel said he would use the experience gained from his leadership of the South Australian environmental regulatory reform program to ensure all sectors of the WA community were involved in the review and reform process.

"The Minister and the EPA are keen to ensure that the important values and principles that underpin the system of EIA in WA are not lost," he said.

"The EIA process must remain publicly accessible with opportunities for public submissions and appeal rights on decisions made."

Important EPA policy initiatives already being considered or under way will be incorporated into the review so that early action can be taken on agreed priorities.

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