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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 9 December 2010) . . Page.. 6080 ..

The bill also amends some elements of the act which may reduce the opportunity for vexatious actions to stall development. For example, under current arrangements, the requirement for an EIS is triggered if a property is being nominated for heritage listing. Under the bill, this trigger will be refined to require an EIS only if the property has actually been heritage listed. The bill then also allows for the Heritage Council to provide early advice on whether an EIS is required.

I also note that the bill seeks to improve the process of the preparation of environmental impact statements. Similar to the role of the Heritage Council, the conservator will now be involved earlier in the development process to determine whether an EIS is required is some circumstances. Again, we are supportive of these amendments to the act which seek to make it easier for business.

I have consulted the key industry bodies in considering this bill. I note that it has the support of the Master Builders Association and the chamber of commerce. I have also had substantial feedback from the HIA, which noted that its support is based on the redefining of certain developments under the merit track that previously fell under impact assessment thereby avoiding the trigger of an EIS. It also puts in place processes—ACTPLA opinion—to enable early determination of development pathways—that is, merit or impact—so that the need for an EIS can be established upfront.

HIA’s view is that major developments that have a significant impact will continue to fall under the impact track and an EIS will need to be undertaken. However, developments that were unnecessarily being held up by EIS triggers causing time delays and costs and when the environmental impact was minimal or negligible can proceed more expediently. In the normal course of assessing merit applications, any environmental issues can still be addressed without the need for complex reports and recommendations that are not commensurate with the potential impact.

The comments from the HIA sum up the bill well. Despite the changes that are proposed in the bill, any developments that will now fall into the merit track will still have environmental issues addressed without the need for an EIS. One good example of this is the removal of lease deconcessionalisation from the impact track. Deconcessionalising a lease on its own is not a good enough reason to trigger an EIS. Any development undertaken following the deconcessionalisation of a lease will still trigger the need for an EIS or have its environmental impact considered under other mechanisms if the type of development that is undertaken warrants that. However, the deconcessionalisation alone should not trigger an EIS.

As noted earlier, the Canberra Liberals will support the bill today. We agree with the intent, which is designed, in part, to reduce the level of red tape faced by business. I have said in this place before, we will always support sensible measures to reduce the regulatory burden on business in the ACT.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (12.15), in reply: I thank Mr Seselja for his support and note that Ms Le Couteur will make a substantive contribution in the detail stage.

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