Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 9 December 2010) . . Page.. 6148 ..
happened at an early stage, say through a strategic environmental assessment for a whole district of suburbs.
However, this is not the case. The bill today lowers the EIS trigger for more than five hectares of native vegetation clearing on future urban areas, giving the power to the Conservator of Flora and Fauna to determine whether or not the impact of the proposal is likely to be significantly adverse.
The Greens appreciate the impetus that is driving the revision of the EIS triggers. We are also cognisant that the EIS legislation has an important role in the application of the precautionary principle to planning. Thus it is very important that the EIS process includes a no development option for the decision maker, an option for ongoing monitoring of certain elements, as well as the usual mitigation and amelioration options.
We agree that lowering the threshold for compulsory EIS could be appropriate, provided that any replacement process is fully transparent and accountable, and that proposals can stay in the impact track if there is doubt about the significance of the impacts. In some cases we agree that it is better to have the conservator involved at an earlier stage of the DA process.
The Greens’ amendments to the planning and development amendment bill are broadly intended to achieve six key improvements:
revise the EIS triggers in schedule 4. parts 4.2 and 4.3;
set out a process for producing an environmental significance opinion;
set out a process for the minister exempting an EIS from being produced;
refine the definitions for “likely” to have a “significant adverse environmental impact”;
refine the process for strategic environmental assessment to include notifications and public consultation; and
add public consultation to the EIS scoping process.
Firstly, with respect to revising the EIS triggers in schedule 4, parts 4.2 and 4.3, these amendments also cover suggestions regarding the triggers for an EIS. With respect to the change to 4.2, development proposals requiring EIS—activities, clause 10 deletes the exemption of an EIS for transport purposes on future urban land.
With respect to changes to part 4.3, development proposals requiring EIS—areas and processes, clause 11 amends item 2(a) to ensure that the conservator’s opinion is needed to establish whether an EIS is necessary for a proposal to clear more than half a hectare of native vegetation, whether or not it is on future urban area land under the territory plan. The Greens do not accept that it is acceptable to clear more than five hectares of native vegetation on future urban land without an EIS, even with a conservator’s opinion. If thorough and current, an SEA could be a worthy replacement for an EIS in this situation.
Clause 11 also amends item 2(b) to reinstate protections in the current act requiring an EIS for proposals involving the clearing of native vegetation on land identified in a nature conservation strategy, action plan or biodiversity corridor. This amendment