Minister of Planning,
As a long established conservation group we are very much aware of the impact large public work projects can have on the environment. We therefore support the recommendations that the Environment and Natural Resources Committee (ENRC) have produced to strengthen the EES process which at present is considered ineffective and easily politicized.
We agree with the ENRC recommendation that environmental protection should be the primary object of the EE Act with all involved in the administration of it seeking to include this objective in the Act. Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) should under-pin decision making under the EE Act with environmental matters considered before other considerations. This would also give currently lacking guidance to the Minister.
Third Party rights relating to referrals should be improved with any person able to refer a project to the Minister for a decision on whether an EIA is required – not just the project proponent or a Government authority. A decision that the project does not need to be assessed under the EE Act should be able to be appealed at VCAT by any person. There is also need for an independent body to undertake monitoring compliance and enforcement activities for projects that have been through the EIA process. There should be penalties for non-compliance.
We trust that the government will agree to adopt in principle all the ENRC recommendations and then draft legislation to implement them.