Page 1603 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 7 May 2013

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Most significantly, this bill covers issues around extending an EIS exemption. The planning minister can currently create an EIS exemption if satisfied the expected environmental impact of a proposal has been sufficiently addressed by another study. This bill proposes that this exemption can be extended beyond the current 18 months.

Given that EPBC approvals, or approvals made under the commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, last longer than 18 months it makes sense to align the EIS exemption with those federal approval time frames. Provided that the ACT community has been fully informed and involved in the consultation and approvals process, it does seem sensible to have this sort of streamlining rather than different time lines which will simply be a point of confusion.

My office has discussed this issue with ACTPLA who agree that it is important, if we rely on the federal EPBC process for public consultation rather than the well-developed consultation processes we have in our Planning and Development Act, to ensure that there are adequate local notification processes in the ACT, including in our local newspapers. I believe that this is being followed up within ACTPLA.

This issue about EPBC bilateral assessments and approvals is a live one and the debate is still occurring at a COAG level. The ACT Greens have ensured that this issue was addressed in the parliamentary agreement and the Greens are not opposed to streamlining assessment processes, provided that the studies assess both commonwealth and ACT threatened species and communities. However, we are keen to ensure that we maintain separate local assessment processes here.

Given that we are allowing this streamlined assessment process to occur—that is, that one EIS for an area would be able to be used for both federal and ACT environmental assessment and approval—it is extremely important to ensure that the ACT public are fully aware of this and are fully able to input into the federal EPBC consultation. ACTPLA are looking at inserting a requirement to this effect into our local processes to ensure that this need is met. The fact that the Gungahlin strategic environmental assessment approval may last for 30 years is testament to this need. Madam Speaker, the Greens will be supporting this bill today.

MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (10.40): I am pleased to support the Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2013. This bill is an important part of the ongoing improvements to legislation in the Environment and Sustainable Development portfolio. It demonstrates that this government is willing to consider and make worthwhile changes.

As indicated by my colleague, this is the fourth bill to be created under the government’s omnibus Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Bill or the PABLAB process. My colleague has spoken to this Assembly about the minor policy amendments this bill makes to the Building Act 2004 and Planning and Development Act 2007. It is the government’s view that these amendments are appropriate for the PABLAB process and make good practical sense.

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