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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 9 December 2010) . . Page.. 6083 ..

This bill is important for ensuring a more sustainable and more affordable Canberra. It will finetune the EIS triggers in the act and provide greater flexibility and efficiency in deciding the appropriate level of environmental impact assessment. It will in some cases with matters which generally fall into the impact assessment track allow them to be assessed in the merit track. This does not mean that such projects will not be subject to proper assessment, and it does not mean that the community will not have the right to comment on development proposals. But it does ensure projects are subjected to a level of environmental assessment that is appropriate to the level of impact they are likely to have.

Let me assure members that the bill will continue to ensure that high quality environmental impact assessment applies to all development proposals. I thank members for their support and the scrutiny of bills committee for its considered advice on this legislation. I thank members for their contribution to the debate, noting that Ms Le Couteur will make further contributions in the detail stage, and we look forward to those. Again, I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clause 1.

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (12.24): The Greens, of course, have a significant interest in the environmental impact assessment process in planning. Our key concern is to ensure that planning legislation in the ACT applies the precautionary principle to development applications so far as possible.

We are very pleased that this bill was put out as an exposure draft in August, which allowed various interest groups to have input into the proposed provisions and allowed us sufficient time to consider the significant proposals for change.

The Greens have taken the approach that we would like to propose the best possible legislation, but of course we do not know what the government of the day will be. The next government could be a government which has less interest in the environment than this government does, so it is important that the legislation is robust, to deal with all issues that may occur.

The main intent of the government’s bill in this area is to lower the threshold for the triggers for an EIS, to remove EISs being conducted when they are unnecessary or, hopefully more to the point, to reduce the minister’s use of the power to exempt EISs being used so often.

The Greens certainly understand that it is burdensome to undertake a full EIS for a number of proposals which currently require one, such as laying pipes and sewers when an area has already been through an EIS for a development; for the de-concessionalisation of a lease; or for absolutely any activity within 100 metres of a waterway.

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