The new NSW Government has recently announced that it will introduce an amendment bill to repeal Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) which revokes the NSW Planning Minister’s approval for certain major infrastructure and other projects such as oil and gas exploration drilling projects and coal mines. The Bill will likely include a new regime for the assessment and determination of projects of genuine State significance and particularly put the decision making process back with local communities and local governments affected by the projects. According to the Planning Minister, only those projects of real significance to the State should be determined by the Government. The details of the new regime, however, are not yet known.  

Pending the submission and approval of that Bill by the NSW Parliament, the Government has amended the State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Development) 2005 introducing several transitional arrangements. In relation to classes of development other than residential, commercial and retail developments or coastal subdivisions (such as mining, petroleum production, extractive industries, geosequestration, metal, mineral or extractive material processing, chemical and manufacturing industries, agriculture, tourism and recreational facilities and significant infrastructure projects), the following principles apply until the Bill is passed by Parliament and enters into force:  

  • No more applications for major developments are accepted under Part 3A.  
  • There are no new declarations for projects until Part 3A is repealed and replaced with the new regime. Projects that were seeking a declaration but were not declared as Part 3A projects by 8 April 2011 will no longer be considered under Part 3A but will be transferred for determination to the relevant local council which that project affects at the time the amendment legislation comes into force.  
  • Applications for projects which are already declared under the Part 3A system will continue to be assessed and determined under Part 3A pending its repeal.  
  • Urgent applications that did not get declared under Part 3A may be requested to be considered by the Director-General of the Department of Planning & Infrastructure to certify that the proponent can lodge a new development application with the relevant local council for assessment. Such requests may be made at any time before the Bill repealing Part 3A enters into force.  
  • For significant private projects remaining in the Part 3A system the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure will delegate his Part 3A determination role to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).  
  • Projects having been fully approved under Part 3A can continue to be modified under this Part.  

The new approval processing regime will likely be more bureaucratic, have a longer application processing time and potentially include an increase in administrative appeals against unfavourable counsel discretion and decisions. Please click here and here to view our two recent Resources Alerts on this topic.