07/10/2008 - 11:03

WA approvals process slammed: report

07/10/2008 - 11:03

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The former Western Australian government's $37 million investment into streamlining the state's resource approval process has largely failed, according to a report by the Auditor General.

WA approvals process slammed: report

The former Western Australian government's $37 million investment into streamlining the state's resource approval process has largely failed, according to a report by the Auditor General.

In a report tabled in parliament, Auditor General Colin Murphy found that even though departmental agencies had implemented key initiatives, these have not delivered the intended improvements.

In 2003, the Labor government committed $37.4 million to improve the approvals process with the aim of creating a simpler and faster service while providing a greater level of certainty for proponents.

In a statement, Mr Murphy said WA runs the risk of companies undertaking development projects elsewhere, a view that has been echoed by several mining and business lobby groups.

Last month, Japanese company Inpex Ltd close Darwin ahead of WA's Maret Islands to host a $20 billion liquefied natural gas plant, an opportunity that would have generated 2000 jobs and some $50 billion in income for WA over the 40-year life of the project.

In his report, Mr Murphy examined the roles of the Department of Industry and Resources, Department of Environment and Conservations and Department of Indigenous Affairs.

Also included in the examination were the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Office of Development Approvals Coordination, which is within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Mr Murphy found there was a need for greater transparency in the criteria, particularly used by ODAC and DoIR, that determines which projects gets special assistance with the approvals process.

He called on the various agencies to develop and publish the criteria, given that there "appears to be real benefits to the proponents who obtain assistance from these agencies".

He also noted there was limited forward planning to anticipate resource development and clarify regional and state development priorities.

"More forward planning would provide guidance to miners and agencies when considering potential environmental, economic and social impact on a specific region," Mr Murphy said in a statement.

Additionally, Mr Murphy said it was hard to determine if overall timelines have improved as the approval process was segmented by the departments and not reported as a one entity.

As a result, he has called on the agencies to implement exception reporting and analysis to determine causes for delays and potential improvements to the process.

Other recommendations included using data and management systems more effectively, implement outcomes-based conditions, use fees and charges to recover costs and encourage more efficient practices, and develop materials to improve the quality of proposals.

 

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