Advocacy efforts by CCIWA have been rewarded with the State Government announcing a package of project approvals reforms that will slash the green tape tying up billions of dollars of investment in WA.
CCIWA’s report The Green Web: How environmental approvals could trap Australian investment exposed that $318 billion worth of investment is at risk of delay or cancellation in WA due to slow state and federal environmental approvals. The report was released in October, prompting a review by the WA Government.
The proposed legislative changes will give the Environment Minister new powers to fast-track the approvals process for proposals of “state significance”, allowing environmental approvals to take place at the same time as other approvals.
Importantly, the changes will require the WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to comply with a Statement of Intent that considers the Government’s economic and social policies when considering a project – a key recommendation of CCIWA’s report.
The Government has also signalled it will make common-sense changes to the appeals process, a key ask from CCIWA.
CCIWA Chief Economist Aaron Morey says the changes show the State Government understands “what’s at stake for our economy, but the message isn’t being heard in Canberra”.
“We commend the Cook Government for these reforms which will hopefully lead to a more streamlined approvals process for major projects in WA, while ensuring the State delivers quality environmental or cultural outcomes,” he says.
The Cook Government will progress a series of changes to the Environment Protection Act 1986, including:
- Allowing the Environment Minister to direct the EPA to assess a project of State significance within a specified timeframe;
- Allowing other Government approvals processes to run in parallel with an EPA approval;
- Expanding the EPA’s board to include more skills-based members; and
- Requiring the EPA to have a Statement of Intent from the Environment Minister, recognising the Government’s priorities and policies.
Premier Roger Cook says the approvals processes have become “overly complex, time-consuming and costly”, holding back economic development without any environmental benefit.
He commends CCIWA’s efforts bringing the issue to light.
“The system is bogged down right at the time when we need to be effective,” Premier Cook told a Business News breakfast event.
“We have a situation where projects that could make a difference to the world’s efforts to decarbonise are getting held back.”
Premier Cook says WA’s approval processes were once considered the best in the world.
“But as the scale, the complexity and the volume of projects has increased, our processes have not kept pace,” he says.
“Our regulatory regime is having an existential crisis.”
With today’s announcement, the Federal Government’s ’nature positive’ agenda is even further at odds with the policies and ambitions of the State Government, Morey says.
“Businesses have told us they’re waiting longer than ever for project approvals which jeopardises investment, so anything the State Government can do to speed up the process will be good for the WA economy,” he says.
“However, the Federal Government’s nature positive proposal flies in the face of this important step forward in WA.
“It will add another layer of bureaucracy at a time when the State Government has recognised we need less green tape, not more.”
CCIWA will fly to Canberra today to continue advocating for a better approach to federal approvals.
To find out more about what we stand for, visit our Advocacy page.