Tony Abbott’s pre-election promise of a one-stop mining approvals shop is inching closer to being realised with the states close to a deal set to hasten the process.
The Federal Government has this week approved the framework for achieving a one-stop shop to streamline environmental approvals for major projects.
The new framework aims to slash green tape and fast-track the approvals for mining developments.
“The one-stop-shop will slash red tape and increase jobs and investment, whilst maintaining environmental standards,” Environment Minister Greg Hunt wrote in a statement.
To achieve a single environmental approvals process, the Federal Government will sign a memorandum of understanding with each willing state.
Under the plan co-operating states will reportedly be handed project approval powers, while the Federal Government will oversee the process which calls for approvals to be settled within 12 months of submission.
To assist the process, the Federal Government is also offering to place staff in the state offices to ensure a smooth transition.
The Federal Government said it has already done a significant amount of the legwork to draft the first MOU with the states.
Each will be signed by the Prime Minister and the respective Premier.
“We expect that the first will be signed shortly as we implement our commitment to cut red tape,” Hunt said.
In September Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said his state is willing to work towards a system that will improve business certainty whilst protecting the environment.
"The federal government has displayed its willingness to work with us to achieve this outcome: we understand there are challenges in dealing with departments that have had, until recently, a very different approach to environmental assessment processes," Newman wrote.
"We look forward to achieving real outcomes to get significant projects in Queensland moving and unlock their potential to create thousands of jobs."
Hunt said the initiative is “about setting the highest standards, making swift decisions and delivering certain outcomes”.
Prolonged, duplicated, and costly approvals processes pushes development costs up, delay prospective projects, and has long been a bug-bear of the mining sector.
“Access to grounds for exploration is being constrained,” Anglo American boss Mark Cutifani said before the federal election.
“Resource developments are being strangled by duplicated bureaucratic processes and red tape.”
He explained that current approvals systems at a state and federal level “needlessly delay projects, costs companies millions and threaten job losses”.
Cutifani called for the “turf wars” between federal, state, and local governments to be ended.
“We can no longer handle having three levels of government telling us what to do,” he said.
Minerals Council chief executive Mitch Hooke also recently weighed into the approvals debate saying the process has moved on from a “major issue to a full blown crisis”.
“Every Australian mining company has a list of projects beset by unnecessary regulatory delay; bound-up in state and federal green tape,” he said.
“Much of the delay can be attributed to the duplication of state and federal approvals processes. This is not only creating significant and unnecessary delays but also adding massive extra costs.”
Hooke’s calls for a single assessment and approvals process which covers both State and Commonwealth environmental matters that is bound to statutory timeframes seems to have now been heard.