Call to fast track development projects

The Productivity Commission has recommended fast tracking approval of major development projects in a suite of new reforms it says will help get projects off the ground as the mining boom recedes.

The Productivity Commission has recommended fast tracking approval of major development projects in a suite of new reforms it says will help get projects off the ground as the mining boom recedes.

The reforms are aimed at speeding approval of mining or construction projects without weakening the workplace and environmental safeguards in place, the commission said.

It comes as business groups push for the federal government to reduce the amount of regulation on new projects, claiming it hampers investment.

Commissioner Jonathan Coppel said the reforms enhanced rather than reduced regulation and would benefit smaller projects the most by speeding up approval and lowering costs.

"The resources boom has led to an almost seven-fold increase in investment in major projects," he said. "All indicators suggest as projects are completed that will come down quite substantially.

"So what this report does is make what may be marginally viable projects more attractive without compromising environmental protection."

He said the changes, which include reducing duplication of federal and state government approvals, would improve transparency and maintain community protection "without weakening stringency of the regulation that is there to protect the environment, in particular".

Major projects accounted for about 7 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product during the peak of the mining boom - up from 1 per cent previously. Mr Coppel said it was just below that peak now.

The report's terms of reference limited the commission to looking at ways of enhancing regulation, rather than amending the laws currently in place.

The main recommendations include reducing state and Commonwealth duplication and putting limits on parties' ability to "stop the clock" on approval decisions.

It also recommends increased use of strategic assessments - such as the one being undertaken on the Great Barrier Reef - which take into account the cumulative environmental impacts of multiple projects in developing areas.

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