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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 1 Hansard (9 February) . .

Page.. 43..

I would now like to talk about another principal amendment made by the bill that relates to reinstating an exemption for certain building work containing non-structural asbestos sheeting. The territory has previously adopted an asbestos management framework to have a harmonised approached with other model jurisdictions. This framework was introduced in 2014 and gives effect to the intergovernmental agreement for regulatory and operational reform in occupational health and safety.

The general outcome of the framework is that construction and building laws no longer regulate work involving asbestos. This is now more appropriately managed through work health and safety and dangerous substance laws. The Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Act 2015 contributed to implementing this framework by introducing amendments to the various pieces of building and construction legislation. This means that builders were responsible for ensuring building work aspects complied with building and construction laws while the asbestos safety aspects of such work continued to be regulated under work health and safety laws. This approach has ensured the appropriate management of building and asbestos work with no gap in regulatory oversight.

PABLAB 2015 No 1 included a consequential amendment which had the effect of removing item 25 of schedule 1, part 1.3 of the Building (General) Regulation because it related to asbestos. Item 25 had exempted the handling of asbestos cement sheets of not greater than 10 square metres from parts 3, 5 and 6 of the Building Act. Clause 4 of this bill proposes a technical amendment to the building regulation to reinstate the previous item 25 exemption for handling asbestos cement sheets. The amendment also proposes some additional modifications to the previous exemption as some elements are no longer relevant such as the restriction on quantity.

This amendment will mean that the removal of bonded asbestos or cement sheets does not require building approval under the Building Act. This is an appropriate amendment because the building work covered by this amendment involves non-structural elements and the asbestos component of the work is managed through work health and safety legislation.

The amendment facilitates removal of broken asbestos cement sheet without unnecessary regulation and red tape. The broken asbestos sheet can then be replaced with the equivalent safe material, provided that the work complies with the relevant work safety laws concerning asbestos work. While building approval is not needed under the Building Act, the work must be done in accordance with the Building Code of Australia and in a proper and skilful way.

The bill also makes minor policy amendments to the Planning and Development Act concerning environmental impact statements in the development application process. Most development applications in the impact track require an environmental impact statement, often referred to as an EIS. However, a completed EIS is not required if an EIS exemption is in force. There are a number of documents that are relevant to an EIS exemption, including the exemption application, the recent study on the application, what it is based on and the EIS exemption itself. The amendment proposed in clause 21 expressly requires this additional documentation to be considered when deciding an application for development approval.

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