Earth Resources Regulation – Continuous Improvement Program

By on October 4, 2017

Earth Resources Regulation – Continuous Improvement Program

DR ELIZABETH GIBSON, General Manager of CMPA reports on the Earth Resources Regulation – Continuous Improvement Program.

Earth Resources Regulation has commenced a Continuous Improvement Program (CIP). The following are two extracts from information released by DEDJTR in July 2017 to set the context:
“The Minister for Resources has asked the Commissioner for Better Regulation, Anna Cronin, to lead a continuous improvement program for Earth Resources Regulation (ERR) with the support of a small team of staff from DEDJTR and other departments. The aim is to enable ERR to operate as a “best practice” regulator – using a modern regulatory framework, the best available information technologies and highly skilled staff.”

Policy co-design ‘sprints’

“One sprint will be focussed on the broader regulatory system including the interface with other regulators, and the other upon regulatory design and governance of the Earth Resources Regulator.”

A letter was also received from Ross McGowan (Executive Director, ERR) which outlined the opportunities for the CIP:
• “reduce delays in the timelines for approvals and to streamline approvals processes;
• set up a framework whereby industry is supported by DEDJTR in obtaining approvals across government;
• improve the interaction between industry and government in terms of regulations, including through the ERR website and online engagement;
• recommend regulatory and legislative changes which will improve industry regulation, ensuring that regulations are necessary, effective and efficient;
• ensure that ERR has the skills and resources it needs to improve its regulatory and operational functions;
• facilitate industry input to inform ERR’s regulatory and operational decision making; and
• improve the levels of transparency and engagement with the community so they are fully informed of, and contributing to, the development, approval and implementation of industry work, closure and rehabilitation plans.”

A workshop was held in August 2017 with industry representatives (including BCA Consulting, Conundrum Holdings, CMPA and K & R J Matthews), government including Catchment Management Authorities and local councils facilitated by the Nous Group. Some of the possible solutions were circulated to industry as given below with CMPA’s response (in italics).
1. Transparency. The design teams are keen to test the appetitive of transparency more with Industry, both ERR making more information available, and Industry making more documentation viewable. This would be, for example, to provide examples of good Work Plans, and to inform good work practice. Should the ERR make public approved work plans (and other documents potentially submitted by proponents, at various stages of refinement NO! This would lead to confusion for the community and also allow competitors to have access to the intellectual property and commercial in confidence information. There is little understanding in ERR of commercial impact on businesses due to decisions made by ERR), what level would you
consider acceptable? Would this increase to cost of work plans, or reduce it? It is a little disappointing that the number 1 solution does nothing to resolve the current issues with ERR and the Work Plan approval process.
2. Optionality. We have tested some scenarios where we would give industry more choice, both as to what order you might choose to do certain steps (for example, apply for a planning permit first. This may be a way forward providing the local Council is confined to the use of the site and ERR the development of the site), and remove certain steps for low risk proposals ERR is extremely risk adverse and would probably require a site with no nearby waterways/floodplains; no native vegetation issues, no aboriginal heritage issues, no blasting, internal buffers of 500m etc. which is unattainable to achieve in Victoria. There is already a Code of Practice for small quarries (low risk) that excludes the requirement for a Work Plan. How would this benefit you, and what risks might this pose to industry? There is certainty for the industry that the site is permitted to be used for quarrying. However, this still does not resolve the current issues with ERR and the Work Plan approval process. How long does a planning permit stay current? This would be an issue if, for instance, the Work Plan approval process was more than 2 years long. The current process prepares the application for acquiring a planning permit. There would need to be an understanding and evidence of how this would reduce capital exposure for the industry.

3. Flexible pathways. We are investigating different pathways to project approval. If the ERR gave Industry the option to ‘opt-in’ to certain pathways (for example, a fast-track for low risk proposals, or larger coverage of Code of Practice proposals), what would you need to ensure this was clear, and provided you certainty that this wouldn’t draw out the process? As per point 2 ERR is extremely risk adverse CMPA would have to see the details first before being able to comment. Would these pathways have higher costs or jeopardise other applicants not being fast tracked?
CMPA developed Code of Practice documents to assist industry to meet their legislative responsibilities so do not have an issue with Codes of Practices, however, industry would need to see more detail.

A report with recommendations is currently being written by Anna Cronin. Members will be informed of its release.

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