Wednesday 26 November 2014

Victoria one step closer to one stop shop for environmental approvals

The Commonwealth Government has proposed to overhaul environmental approvals in Australia, by creating a 'one stop shop' approval process in each State and Territory.

In short, the Commonwealth proposes to transfer some of its current responsibilities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) to the States.  It plans to do this by creating bilateral agreements under the EPBC Act.

Bilateral agreements under the EPBC Act can do two different things.  An agreement may declare that actions assessed under State law do not need to follow an EPBC Act assessment process.  An agreement may also declare that actions that have been approved by the State do not need separate Commonwealth approval at all.

In a number of other States and territories, draft approval agreements have already been published.  Those agreements propose to implement the 'one stop shop', by removing the need for Commonwealth approvals under the EPBC Act for some actions where those actions can be and have been approved under the agreement.

On 27 October 2014, the Commonwealth and Victoria entered into a bilateral agreement, as part of the implementation of the proposed reform in Victoria.  The agreement is a step along the path towards creating the 'one stop' approval, following the steps identified in the Memorandum of Understanding between Victoria and the Commonwealth.  The agreement itself is reasonably modest.  It mainly updates and extends existing arrangements between Victoria and the Commonwealth, which allow expanded Victorian environmental assessments to stand in for assessments that would ordinarily be completed under Commonwealth legislation.

The new bilateral agreement will affect Victorian departments and agencies when taking actions with environmental impacts, when preparing environmental assessments under various Victorian Acts, when acting as decision makers, or when advising the Minister responsible for the Victorian Acts.  It is important for Victorian entities to be familiar with the updated process in the agreement.
This newsletter explains what the new agreement does, how it fits within the proposed 'one stop shop' policy, and what it will mean for Victorian departments and agencies.

If you are in the Victorian Government and would like more information about these changes, please contact:

Acting Managing Principal Solicitor
t 8684 0299

Mark Egan
Principal Solicitor
t 8684 0489

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