Premier Mark McGowan has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urge the Commonwealth Government to establish an Environmental Approvals Bilateral Agreement that would fast track approvals for major resources projects.
The proposed agreement, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, would significantly reduce major project timeframes, duplication and costs, whilst maintaining the highest environmental standards.
A bilateral agreement of this nature is possible under the current Western Australian and Federal legislation, and requires no additional legislative change.
If agreed to by the Prime Minister it is expected to reduce assessment processes for major projects by around six months, making it easier to do business in the State.
The bilateral agreement would complement the State and Commonwealth Governments’ recent agreement to create a new online portal system to submit and track approval applications.
With billions of dollars’ worth of new job-creating projects such as Browse and Scarborough earmarked to get underway in coming years, the McGowan Government is working to ensure unnecessary bureaucracy is minimised.
The McGowan Government will also deliver a further $1.7 million to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to build a team of assessment professionals to deal specifically with State significant proposals – reducing assessment timelines.
This comes on top of $3 million to fund 14 additional staff announced in October 2018 to assist the EPA manage the steep increase in major projects requiring assessment and new growth for WA.
As stated by Premier Mark McGowan:
“This is a vital agreement that would slash approval times for major projects and unleash WA jobs.
“Industry has been crying out for bilateral approvals and we are responding to these calls. This plan ensures we maintain the highest environmental standards, but don’t get bogged down in bureaucracy.
“Signing this agreement would complement the recent co-operative work by the State and Federal Governments to streamline the way we do business.
“Western Australia is on the cusp of a new era in large-scale resources projects, including the Browse and Scarborough developments, which will deliver a pipeline of jobs into the future.
“The current approvals process is too slow and there is too much duplication at State and Commonwealth levels.
“We need to do everything we can to speed up approvals and bring on these new jobs as a matter of urgency.”
As stated by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
“The McGowan Government is committed to improving regulation in order to support the Western Australian economy and ensure our environment is protected, and I urge the Commonwealth to establish an environmental approvals bilateral agreement.
“By improving transparency, consistency and timeliness of environmental approvals, the McGowan Government’s latest reforms are a genuine win-win for the environment.
“With better systems, improved legislation and extra resources for our environmental agencies, the Government is serious about making it easier to do business in WA and it’s great to see our Commonwealth counterparts recognise and support our initiatives.
“WA is leading the way in innovative practice to ensure certainty for business and our safeguarding of the environment for future generations.”