The past few years have seen constant change in the legislation governing the approval of resources projects.

The Productivity Commission has recently released a report entitled “Research Report into Major Project Development Assessment Processes? (Report), identifying improvements that can be made to the approval process for major projects.

The Report provides resource companies with independent and objective recommendations which they can use in submissions to government on proposed regulatory amendments.

The relevant recommendations include:

  • Introducing statutory maximum timeframes for assessment agencies and decision makers to make decisions or recommendations (Recommendation 7.3).
  • Introducing cooperative arrangements between regulatory agencies within the same jurisdiction for joint or substitutable assessments, to minimise duplication between assessment processes (Recommendation 6.2).
  • Commonwealth, State and Territory governments expanding and strengthening bilateral assessment agreements and negotiating for bilateral approval agreements (Recommendations 6.1, 7.1 and 7.2).
  • Requiring governments to provide clear, upfront information and guidance on assessment and approval pathways, including details about the process, information requirements, assessment criteria, standard and model conditions, and statutory timelines (Recommendation 5.1).
  • Legislative guidance should be provided for decision makers to follow when making approval decisions, including the factors that decision makers need to take into account when reaching decisions (Recommendation 7.6).
  • Requiring decision makers to publish assessment reports and reasons (including identifying any risks being mitigated) for all approval decisions and conditions for major projects (Recommendation 7.7).
  • Suggesting governments use Strategic Assessments in circumstances where it is likely to produce a reduction in the costs of project approval, while delivering environmental and other regulatory outcomes that are equal or superior to those achieved under other processes (Recommendation 11.1).

A copy of the Report is available here.