New approval process for Major Projects set out in the Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Act 2020 (Tas)

The Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Bill 2020 (Bill) received royal assent on 13 October 2020. The date of commencement of the Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Major Projects) Act 2020 (Tas) (Act) was 28 October 2020.

The Act amends the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 (Tas) by replacing the current Projects of Regional Significance (PORS) process with a new Major Projects approval process.

The Major Projects approval process provides for the assessment of development proposals of significant impact, scale or complexity. This includes proposals that cross municipalities or require many different permits. Previously, developers of such proposals would have to undergo many separate approval processes for different permits, and risk one or more of their permit applications being denied after already significantly investing in the development proposal.

The Act reduces the time it takes for developers to find out whether one of their permit applications will be denied. This is beneficial for developers, as they do not need to invest significantly in their proposal before finding out that it cannot go ahead.

The Act can be accessed here.

The Major Projects approval process has three distinct stages, which are detailed below.  At each stage of the approval process, there is the opportunity for members of the community to make representations.

Eligibility stage

In this stage, the Minister determines whether a proposal is considered a ‘Major Project’ and eligible to enter the Major Projects approval process. For a proposal to be considered a Major Project, it must be for the ‘use and development’ of land, and must meet at least two of the following three eligibility criteria:

  • the project must have a significant impact on, or make a significant contribution to, a region’s economy, environment or social fabric;
  • the project must be of strategic importance to a region; or
  • the project must be of significant scale or complexity.

For a proposal to be declared a Major Project, it must be consistent with State Policies, the Tasmanian Planning Policies, and the relevant Regional Land Use Strategy.

Preliminary assessment stage

In this stage, the developer of a Major Project provides the proposal to an independent Panel that has been appointed by the Tasmanian Planning Commission and the relevant regulators, such as the Environment Protection Authority Board, for consideration. The regulators then provide advice to the Panel. The regulators could provide:

  • a notice that there are no assessment requirements in relation to the Major Project; or
  • a list of the assessment requirements that the developer will be required to address; or
  • a notice recommending that the Major Project be refused.

The advice from the regulators is compiled by the Panel and assessment criteria are produced. These assessment criteria cover all the matters that the Major Project will be assessed against in the assessment stage.

Assessment stage

In this stage, the developer provides a project impact statement that addresses the assessment criteria to the Panel and relevant regulators. Each regulator undertakes a detailed assessment in accordance with the requirements of its own legislation, as if the Major Project was any other development application. An initial assessment report is prepared which consolidates the advice from the regulators, including whether the proposal should be approved or not and the conditions that should apply.

A public hearing is then held. Submissions can be made at the hearing by members of the public if they made a representation regarding the relevant Major Project earlier in the Major Projects approval process.

Following the hearing the Panel and the regulators review their advice in the context of the submissions and issues raised at the hearing, and determine whether to issue the developer with a Major Projects permit with conditions, or to refuse the proposal.

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Once the Panel has made a decision regarding a Major Project, there are no appeal rights for merits review. Review is limited to judicial review. Decisions of the Tasmanian Planning Commission also cannot be appealed based on the merits of a matter.

Prior to declaring a Major Project, determination guidelines will require the Minister to have regard to relevant local planning controls. The Panel will also be required to consider relevant local planning requirements when preparing the assessment criteria and also when making a final decision.

If you have any queries or would like further information regarding this article, please contact:

Anthony Spence SC
Principal
M: 0400 545 503
E: aspence@pageseager.com.au

Published: 4 November 2020

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