Revised draft legislation to introduce a new process for declaring and assessing “major projects” is currently out for public comment until 29 January 2018.
The revised draft has responded to a number of issues raised by the community and regulators in representations on the previous draft. Information about the new draft is available here.
Significant improvements include:
- The revised draft more clearly prevents a residential or office building that is taller than the acceptable limits set by a planning scheme from being declared a major project
- To improve the independence of the assessment process, the Minister is no longer involved in appointing the assessment Panel, or developing determination guidelines
- The Planning Commission is required to publish guidelines for the public hearing process
- Regulators have been given additional time to comment on major project proposals, draft guidelines and the draft impact statement, and to provide their final advice to the Panel about a major project
- There are now offences for proponents providing false and misleading information about a major project
Some outstanding issues remain:
- Projects can be declared major projects if assessment by a local council has been “unreasonably delayed” – there is no guidance as to when delay will be considered “unreasonable”
- Clarification as to whether tall hotels and visitor accommodation can be declared to be major projects
- There is still no right of appeal against a decision to approve a major project (on the basis that it has already been through a public hearing process).
- Where a significant amendment to a major project is proposed, the project must be re-advertised and re-assessed. Where a minor amendment to a major project is proposed, everyone who made a “relevant” representation must be notified – this should be extended to everyone who made a representation , to remove any discretion as to whether a representation is “relevant” to the minor amendment proposal.