Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . .
in place in 2014. However, delays in the passage of the commonwealth legislation will delay the commencement of a one-stop shop until 2015.
To facilitate a one-stop shop both governments are amending legislation. The commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014 was introduced on 14 May and amends the EPBC Act to provide for a more effective administrative framework for approval bilateral agreements.
The commonwealth bill was scheduled for debate in the first week of September. However, it was not voted on in the Senate as expected. Debate and voting on the bill have been delayed and, as a consequence, the accreditation of ACT processes cannot commence on the 25th of this month as proposed, meaning that a one-stop shop cannot commence until early next year. This is because the commonwealth accreditation of ACT legislation involves a 15-day disallowance period in the commonwealth parliament, which cannot be finalised in 2014 because of their sitting calendar.
The ACT has worked hard to meet its commitment to achieve a one-stop shop this year and is ready to sign an approval bilateral agreement once this bill is passed. The delay in commonwealth accreditation to 2015 does not prohibit the parties from signing an agreement this year, once ACT and commonwealth legislation is passed.
I intend to delay the commencement of this bill until the commonwealth amendments are passed. However, this bill provides a number of reforms to ACT processes that are beneficial in their own right. If passing of the commonwealth's bill is further delayed, I propose to commence stand-alone provisions of this bill that improve the ACT's current processes.
I would like to provide some detail about the changes that will be introduced by the bill, as I have already outlined. Firstly, the bill gives legislative force to an offsets policy and guidelines. This is a first for the ACT and will provide a clear regulatory framework for decision-making in relation to environmental offsets.
Offsets are intended to provide "environmental compensation" for unavoidable significant impacts on protected matters. Offsets are part of an avoid, mitigate, offset hierarchy that is utilised in planning frameworks across Australia and the world. In undertaking development, impacts should in the first place be avoided, then mitigated, with offsets only considered as a last resort.
An offsets policy is a mandatory requirement for establishing a one-stop shop. The commonwealth has standards for accreditation of environmental approvals that require an acceptable offsets policy to be in place before the Planning and Development Act can be accredited under the one-stop shop.
As well as providing legislative force for an offsets policy and guidelines, this bill also allows for the imposition of offset conditions, including conditions requiring offset management plans. This bill specifies requirements for the preparation of any offset management plan, ensuring that relevant parties are involved in this process.
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