WA seeks to slash project approval wait times by six months
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Companies developing major resource projects in Western Australia could have approval times reduced by about six months if the state government secures the green light to conduct environmental assessments.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urge the Commonwealth government to establish an Environmental Approvals Bilateral Agreement that will fast track major project approvals.
The proposed agreement, which falls under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, will allow the state to conduct environmental assessments and issue a single approval.
This is expected to slash approval times by around six months, reduce duplication and costs, whilst still maintaining the highest environmental standards, according to the WA government.
It will also complement the recent agreement between the state and Commonwealth governments’ to create a new online portal system to submit and track approval applications.
The WA government said that with billions of dollars’ worth of new job-creating projects such as the Browse and Scarborough oil and gas projects earmarked to get underway in coming years, it was committed to ensuring that unnecessary bureaucracy was minimised.
“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,” McGowan said.
“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.”
Western Australia will also tip in a further $1.7m to its Environmental Protection Authority to build a team of assessment professionals to deal specifically with state significant proposals – reducing assessment timelines.
This comes on top of $3m 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.