Sweeping changes to WA approvals process

An Industry Working Group commissioned by the Western Australian Government has called for a complete overhaul of the State's mining approvals process.

An Industry Working Group commissioned by the Western Australian Government has called for a complete overhaul of the State’s mining approvals process in a report tabled by Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore earlier in the week.

The report has called for reforms to the native title and Aboriginal heritage processes, a separate Department of Natural Resources, a clearly defined resource development policy and an independent Approvals Reform Office.

The Group also called for a stand alone role for the Environmental Protection Authority as well as reforms to the Environmental Protection Act 1986 appeals process and the Mining Act 1978.

The Group did not recommend changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act, but recommended a series of reforms to establish guidelines and fee structures for Aboriginal heritage surveys.

The Group also recommended that new Aboriginal heritage guidelines are being developed by the Department of Indigenous Affairs and reviewed by the mining and petroleum industry prior to final endorsement.

According to the report, a separate Department of Natural Resources would make the delivery of environmental management services and approvals more efficient and effective.

The Department would also provide an increased focus on conservation and land management to existing and future National Parks and Reserves.

The Group’s Chairman, former WA Resources Development Minister Peter Jones called for clear, firm and ongoing leadership from the State Government to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

“In submitting this report, I advise that the contents reflect a challenging task for Government, knowing its critical social and economic importance to the future welfare of all Western Australians,” he said.

“Given the present economic outlook for Western Australia’s existing industrial base, and the resultant decline in State revenue, it is critical that the complete approval system is reviewed and structural as well as administrative changes are implemented.”

The Industry Working Group was commissioned by Moore in November 2008 to provide strategic advice on making the state’s approvals process more efficient.

It comprised individuals from both the private sector and the relevant State Government agencies.

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