Page 3857 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 19 September 2017
The second aspect of this bill relates to the need for an impact track assessment and an EIS for developments that occur on contaminated sites. Currently the act rightly requires these proposals to go through the highest level of impact assessment due to the potential risks associated with contaminated land. However, there are some scenarios where the proposal’s impact is likely to be relatively minor, and in these circumstances the requirement for an EIS is disproportionate and overly burdensome.
The new section proposed in this bill provides for greater flexibility in these situations by allowing the proposal to be assessed in the merit track if the planning and land authority produces an environmental significance opinion saying that the proposal is not likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact. The example that has been put forward as part of the debate is a proposal to erect a sign on a site that includes contaminated land but where the proposed development is on the uncontaminated part of the block. In this case an ESO could confirm that the need to produce an EIS is disproportionate to the risk associated with the proposal, making the process faster and more efficient both for the proponent and for government.
Another example that has occurred to me in reflecting on this legislation is a bit of a historical one but is one that used to crop up regularly where we had sheep dip sites on rural blocks. You can imagine the large scope of a rural block; a sheep dip may well be in one corner of it and there may be a proposal to do something else a significant distance away. I think this would be another example where the presence of that old contaminated site, the sheep dip, would not impact on the proposed new development. That would be another example I could imagine being appropriate under this legislation.
The Greens believe that this measure balances the benefits of red tape reduction with the need to keep strong environmental protections in place for proposals that would impact on contaminated sites. While the default remains that developments on contaminated sites should be assessed in the impact track, the bill allows for a merit track assessment only if and when an ESO confirms that this is appropriate. The ESO is also a notifiable instrument which will ensure that there is adequate transparency in the assessment process. The Greens will be supporting this change because it introduces a red tape reduction, but not at the expense of environmental oversight.
The third and final aspect of this bill is a parliamentary agreement item. I will only touch on it briefly, as Ms Le Couteur will expand further on the point later in the debate. This section changes the process for draft Territory Plan variations so that the minister is required to refer the draft variation to the appropriate Assembly committee for consideration. In line with the amendment that is going to come forward, the committee will then have 20 days to decide whether a report on the proposal is required; if so, the minister must wait up to six months for the committee to report before the draft variation can be progressed. This will provide an opportunity for greater scrutiny and transparency of Territory Plan variations, and it will allow the community to be involved in these decisions through the committee process. This is about making sure that planning decisions are being made in the best interests of the community, and the Greens are pleased to be supporting this change.