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Law Reform ·

The State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (Red Tape Reduction) Bill 2014

30 June, 2014

This Bill repeals the Wild Rivers Act 2005 (Qld) and proposes amendments to the environmental impact statement (EIS) process for coordinated projects and the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld).

A summary of our main points of concern are set out below:

Amendments to EIS process for coordinated projects

The Bill introduces a ‘staged EIS’ process to the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld) (SDPWO Act). EDO Qld is concerned that assessment by way of staged EIS will result in piecemeal assessment of what are the most environmentally risky projects in Queensland. We need to maintain safeguards in the legislation to ensure that projects as a whole that have unacceptable impacts, are not approved.

New IAR process for coordinated projects

The Bill introduces a new environmental impact assessment process, called an Impact Assessment Report (IAR). This is essentially a weaker, less transparent, less accountable process than the EIS process by removing public notification and input into the draft Terms of Reference and the draft EIS. EDO Qld is concerned that instead of projects being assessed using the EIS process, there will be an increased reliance on the IAR process which does not mandatorily require public participation, scrutiny and input into the environmental impact assessment.

Removal of the requirement for an EIS for broadscale clearing

The Bill proposes to remove the current prohibition on the Coordinator General declaring that an EIS is not required if the project will result in broadscale clearing for agricultural purposes as well as removing any definition of a project resulting in broadscale clearing. EDO Qld does not support the removal of such a prohibition, especially in circumstances where the Coordinator General’s decisions are not open to statutory judicial review.

Public notification for additional information requests

Where a draft EIS does not have the requisite information about the environmental impacts, the Coordinator General can request further information from the proponent. The Bill indicates a discretion on whether additional information requests are publically notifiable. EDO Qld submits that further information in response to the information request should be publically notifiable in order to ensure greater public transparency and scrutiny of the material.

Wild Rivers repeal is not met with an appropriate level of protection

This Bill proposes to repeal the Wild Rivers Act 2005 (Qld) in its entirety. In summary, our concerns with the legislation that seeks to replace protections afforded under the Wild Rivers Act are inadequate for the following reasons:

  • The RPI Act does not provide for ‘public interest’ appeal rights, thereby reducing accountability and public scrutiny;
  • Unlimited discretion is given to the Chief Executive of DSDIP to grant a regional interests development approval;
  • The exemptions for not requiring regional interests development approval are far too broad and lenient towards the resource industry;
  • The RPI Act does not capture impacts of resource activities on regional interest areas, where those resource activities do not occur in a regional interest area;
  • The co-existence criteria for SEAs do not provide adequate protection;
  • The RPI Act undermines legal procedures and protections by allowing a regional interests development approval to override an Environmental Authority;
  • The RPI Act has weak provisions for public access to information (open government).

New regulation-making power for SPA to be accredited under a Cth bilateral

The Bill provides a new regulation-making power for SPA to be accredited under a Commonwealth-Queensland approval bilateral agreement. EDO Qld strongly submits that the Queensland Government should undertake a proper consultation in respect of such a proposal.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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