Big step forward for project approval reform in WA

CCIWA welcomes the Cook Government’s decisive move to slash the green tape that is tying up billions of dollars of investment in WA but warns planned changes at a federal level could undo any progress.

CCIWA’s report The Green Web: How environmental approvals could trap Australian investment exposed the fact that $318 billion worth of investment is at risk of delay or cancellation in WA alone due to slow state and federal environmental approvals.

The report was released in October and prompted a review by the WA Government which resulted in the changes announced by the Premier today.

The legislative changes will give the Environment Minister new powers to fast-track the approvals process for proposals declared to be of “state significance”, and allow environmental approvals to take place at the same time as other approvals.

Importantly, the changes will require the state’s Environmental Protection Authority to comply with a Statement of Intent that takes into account the Government’s economic and social policies when considering a project – a key recommendation of the Green Web report.

The Government has also signalled it will make common-sense changes to the appeals process, a key ask from CCIWA and something that must be followed through.

CCIWA Chief Economist Aaron Morey said the changes in WA showed 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 said.

“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.

“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.”

The Nature Positive proposal is a complex set of reforms which will introduce a national Environmental Protection Authority, duplicating the work happening at a state level.

Mr Morey said the proposal has caused significant concern across a range of sectors, including mining, exploration, construction and agriculture.

“Ironically, this extra layer of approvals could jeopardise investment in renewable energy projects,” he said.

“Australia is in a race for global capital as other countries throw incentives at companies to invest in green technologies and critical minerals.

“Australia and especially WA has the natural resources to lead the world, but if major projects are plagued by delays and cost blow-outs it will send a signal to investors that Australia is a risk.

“Adding more green tape won’t lead to better outcomes for the environment – we already have one of the most robust systems in the world. All it will do is delay projects and send investment dollars overseas.”

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