Page 3709 - Week 10 - Thursday, 14 September 2017
an ESO. An ESO is an alternative to having to provide a full environmental impact statement and can be issued by the conservator where a proposal is not likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact.
After assessing the project and, if appropriate, the conservator will prepare an ESO which may include conditions on how the works are to be undertaken. The ESO has the effect of moving the proposal from being assessed in the impact track to the merit track. At this point, some exemptions from requiring development approval may apply. For example, public works undertaken by the territory are a form of development that does not require development approval in certain circumstances.
It has become apparent that this process of requiring a development application and an ESO for minor works undertaken by the parks and conservation service is a barrier to efficient administrative operations. The parks and conservation service often need to go through this process to obtain approval for everyday works that form part of their core business. This work is often minor and is regularly issued with an ESO stating that it is not likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact.
The current process is therefore unnecessarily lengthy and costly in comparison to the scope of works usually involved. The delay and expense of the development approval process is not justified for the minor nature of the works that are to be carried out and the low likelihood of having a significant environmental impact. The amendments in the bill set up a streamlined process to assess environmental impacts up front and to provide certainty and transparency around standards, practices and conditions that must be met when undertaking works in reserves.
Now I would like to refer to the clauses of the bill in some detail and provide a road map for members of this place on how the new processes put forward in the bill will work. Specifically, clause 5 of the bill amends the Nature Conservation Act to insert the ability for the conservator to approve a minor public works code. This clause sets out what the code must provide for, including the standards and practices that must be followed, the circumstances of which works can be undertaken and any conditions on those activities. The requirements of the code are aimed at ensuring that all minor public works undertaken in reserves in accordance with the code are not likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact.
The code is a disallowable instrument made by the conservator and is therefore subject to Assembly scrutiny. Further, the code must be reviewed every five years to ensure that it is up to date and still having its intended effect. Corresponding amendments are made to the Planning and Development Act and the Planning and Development Regulation to support the introduction of the power to make the code.
Clause 1.1 of schedule 1 of the bill inserts a new definition of minor public works for the purposes of the code. This sets a threshold of works that may be completed under the code and these works reflect the core business of the parks and conservation service. The inclusion of these activities in the definition of minor public works means that these works, by their very nature, represent a low likelihood of causing a significant adverse environmental impact.