All Systems Go - New Victorian Legislation to Cut Through Red Tape for Major Projects
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The Bill was introduced by the Napthine Government in order to simplify the administrative processes associated with major transport project delivery in Victoria. The requirements of public consultation and pre-existing approvals in accordance with planning, cultural heritage and environmental safeguards remain unaffected by the Bill.
Many of the changes in the Bill are largely procedural and avoid duplication of public officials' functions in the project assessment and delivery process.
Through its amendments, the Bill proposes to:
- emphasise a risk-based assessment regime;
- enable early works on projects prior to commencement of major works;
- shorten statutory time frames for decision-making steps;
- improve efficiency in land assembly and project delivery; and
- extend to projects submitted for approval prior to the commencement of the Bill (for example, the East West Link - - project and the Port of Hastings development).
- Risk-based assessment regime
During the current project assessment and approval process, the Planning Minister is required to review the project proposal and initiate one of two processes: the comprehensive impact statement assessment approach; or the impact management plan assessment. Both processes require the Planning Minister to provide scoping directions to the public authority responsible for the project, specifying considerations for inclusion in the "impact management plan" or "comprehensive impact statement" ('Impact Documents').
The Bill allows the Minister to direct the authority to address certain matters in their preparation of the Impact Documents after having regard to the preliminary risk report in the project proposal. These measures are intended to culminate in the availability of more focussed Impact Documents for public consultation.
Early changes in the project scope are also better accommodated under the proposed amendments by allowing greater flexibility to the responsible authority in complying with and varying the scoping directions provided by the Minister.
A combination of methods, including greater collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency; a confined scope for public hearings; and the assessment committee's role in distilling issues for the responsible authority's consideration, are all intended to streamline early risk detection and incorporation of feedback into the project's development.
Once necessary approvals are obtained for a project, the Bill institutes procedures to enable the relocation of utilities prior to the commencement of construction, further expediting the delivery of infrastructure projects.
Statutory time frames
Timing requirements for the approval of documentation have been reduced significantly under the proposed amendments. Furthermore, obligations are imposed on public officials to expedite projects and carry out their functions within the stipulated statutory timeframes.
In certain cases, for example in the initial declaration phase of a project, administrative hurdles have been reduced by vesting responsibility in designated officials.
Additionally, there is a widespread shift away from the use of Government Gazettes to publicise statutory notices relating to the project assessment process, in favour of the Department's website.
Land assembly and project delivery
Notably, the Bill affirms that the approval of Councils is not required for the carrying out of works.
This is intended to reduce the opportunity of Council intervention in a project once necessary approvals have been obtained. The exception, however, does not extend to standards of construction or safety requirements imposed by Councils and the Minister remains entitled to consult with affected Councils.
Scope of the Act
The Bill extends to projects that were declared prior to the implementation of the Bill. Specifically, this is intended to cover the East West Link project and may extend to other projects upon determination of the Planning Minister.
A project proposal may be revised and resubmitted by the responsible authority to the Planning Minister for consideration under the improved risk assessment procedures.
The intended measures affirm the Napthine Government's commitment to delivering better value in infrastructure planning and delivery. The Bill attempts to reduce bureaucracy whilst expediting delivery and ensuring that risks are appropriately accounted for in the planning process.
Premier Napthine's media release.
The Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment (East West Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013.
Author(s) Stewart Nankervis
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