Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . .
The next key element of the bill is a requirement for the advice of the commonwealth environment minister to be taken into account under a one-stop shop where a proposed development is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance. A decision cannot be inconsistent with this advice. This is in line with the most recent parliamentary agreement which requires an ongoing approvals role for the commonwealth. Specifically, the agreement requires "support for an ongoing approvals role for the federal government in environmental protection on matters of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999".
The bill will ensure that the environmental approvals process is streamlined under the one-stop shop, but importantly that it still takes into account advice from the commonwealth minister responsible for matters of national environmental significance as an additional environmental safeguard.
In a similar way, projects must also be referred to the Conservator of Flora and Fauna for advice under the bill. This recognises the central role of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna in the operation of the one-stop shop. A decision made by the Planning and Land Authority must not be inconsistent with advice provided by the conservator in that case. The minister, however, can make a decision that is not consistent with the conservator's advice, but only where the decision is consistent with the offsets policy and provides a substantial public benefit.
This feature is known as "conservator concurrence" and will ensure that there is independent and impartial advice on impacts to matters of national environmental significance. Conservator concurrence will also provide assurance about the acceptability, relevance and effectiveness of approval conditions. Criteria will be established to guide the scope of any advice provided by the conservator.
The conservator will also be able to include conditions on any environmental significance opinion that is granted under the existing Planning and Development Act. These conditions will be a mandatory consideration for merit track development applications under the act.
The conditions must also be included in any subsequent development application approval. This strengthens the role of the conservator and ensures that relevant environmental considerations are captured throughout the development application process. The conservator will also play a role in the development of offsets policy guidelines, as well as reviewing the offsets policy.
Finally, the bill also proposes a number of amendments that will result in greater community involvement in the environmental assessment process and easier access to information on environmental assessments and approvals. For example, the bill requires the Planning and Land Authority to keep an electronic public record of all offsets in the ACT. This will ensure that the public and decision-makers can access up-to-date information on environmental offsets in the ACT.
The bill also requires public consultation on an application for exemption under section 211 of the act, which means that a proponent does not have to prepare an
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