Page 40 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 9 February 2016

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Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 19 November 2015, on motion by Mr Gentleman:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR COE (Ginninderra) (12.13): Madam Speaker, the opposition will be supporting the Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (No 2). The bill includes minor amendments to building, planning and environment legislation. The bill makes changes to the way asbestos matters are managed. Previous amendments to asbestos management provisions had the unintended consequence of requiring a building application for any project that included the removal or repair of asbestos sheeting, that is, bonded asbestos. This added unnecessary delay and red tape to the process. This kind of work is already governed by health and safety legislation, so removing the extra regulation is indeed sensible.

The bill makes changes to the development approvals processes in cases where the application is EIS exempt. In such cases the bill requires the decision-maker to consider an EIS exemption, a revised EIS application and the study which the exemption is based on when deciding the application. The bill also ensures that the conservator’s advice will only be binding when it relates to a protected matter. All other advice from the conservator will be taken into consideration in the same way as other submissions about development applications. This means that the conservator is not given undue influence over planning matters.

The bill clarifies the public consultation period for an EIS so that the period will be listed on the consultation notice rather than being a set amount of time after notification. This means that people will not be excluded from providing a submission due to uncertainty about the end date of the consultation.

The bill also clarifies the time allowed to make a decision where a matter is referred to the commonwealth minister. The 10-day period for comment from the minister is added to the decision-making time.

The bill amends the provisions of the Nature Conservation Act 2014 to allow a closed reserve declaration to commence at the time it is made rather than having to wait for the notification day. This means that in situations where there is imminent danger but the Emergency Services Act still does not apply urgent action can still be taken. The bill also includes a defence for a person who was unaware of the closure and had no reasonable grounds of suspecting that a closure was in place.

Officials have told me that this provision will be used in cases where a dangerous weather event is forecast but has not actually commenced. At present it is not possible to force people to leave a reserve even when it is clear that there is a potential danger looming. This amendment makes a sensible change.

Finally, the bill allows for a list of key threatening processes to be made. This list is referred to in current legislation but has never actually been formed into a list.

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