Queensland draft agreement on environmental approvals
Queensland is providing an example for the rest of the country with its decision to reduce red tape in environmental approvals.
The Federal Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt, MP, and the Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, the Hon Andrew Powell, MP, signed a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Canberra last week.
The draft MOU has not been released publicly. But it is likely that that the delegation of powers in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) (EPBC Act) will be devolved to accredited States and Territories – in this case, Queensland.
In effect, it will remove the duplication and the additional layers of approval required by the EPBC Act.
Companies can look forward to reduced red tape and clearer guidance when it comes to environmental approvals in Queensland, saving them time and providing business certainty.
The Federal Minister says the Queensland draft agreement is the first step in what will be a national process.
We welcome this development.
For some time, there has been significant frustration with the current system – and for good reason. The unnecessary delay of projects has impacted companies and hindered the economic performance of the state.
Once implemented, the intent is to have one streamlined process that provides clarity and direction; whilst delivering quality environmental outcomes with the view of achieving a balance between business performance and environmental compliance.
Currently there are no immediate actions required from you. But as this initiative develops, we will provide guidance on how this may impact your project and the approvals process.
Good reasons to remain cautious
While the draft agreement in Queensland is good news, we urge clients to remain cautious for the following reasons:
- There will be transitional tensions during the implementation in Queensland and elsewhere. It could be 2-3 years before a settled regime is in place.
- There is the risk that as other States and Territories negotiate – or, at least attempt to negotiate – there will be different standards or arrangements with the Commonwealth. There is no certainty that we will end up with a consistent national regime.
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