Dr Napthine said legislation to be introduced into Parliament last week would ensure significant projects did not become bogged down in red tape, while preserving important requirements around environmental and social impact assessments.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to delivering major transport infrastructure projects that are essential to our economic future and our liveability,” Dr Napthine said.
“The Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment Bill (East West Link and other projects) 2013 will reduce project delays and costs by providing a more streamlined approval process.”
Specifically the proposed legislation includes provisions that:
- enable early works such as relocating drains and moving gas pipes to be done before major tunnelling or construction works start, while still retaining necessary planning approvals;
- bring the impact assessment process up to best practice standard by making it a risk-based assessment, consistent with the changes proposed for environmental assessments under the Environment Effects Act;
- shorten statutory timeframes, simplify administrative processes and remove the need for the internal administrative burden of exchanging letters between Ministers that add no value to the process; and
- increase project flexibility – for example, allowing reasonable variations to project designs to be considered during the approvals process, as was the case with EastLink.
“This legislation will ensure state-significant projects such as the East West Link, the Port of Hastings Development and Melbourne Metro are not held up by onerous administrative processes,” Dr Napthine said.
Dr Napthine said the bill importantly did not reduce opportunities for community input into the project approval process.
“This bill retains requirements for public exhibitions and public hearings,” Dr Napthine said.
“This is not about removing the level of rigour that is applied to major projects, it’s about ensuring that processes occur in a streamlined way.”
The proposal does not change the social impacts of the assessment regime and does not reduce any of the planning, cultural heritage or environmental requirements or safeguards contained in the Act.
“The bill does not water down requirements, but it removes duplication and double-handling,” Dr Napthine said.
“We want to deliver projects such as the East West Link project as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible, for the benefit of all Victorians.
“This bill will enable early works to occur on the East West Link project and ensure we can get on with the job of delivering this major project,” Dr Napthine said.