Meeting with Minister for Resources, The Hon Wade Noonan

By on September 27, 2016
Photo of The Hon Wade Noonan

CMPA’S GARRY CRANNY (Chairperson), RON KERR (Honorary CEO) AND DR. ELIZABETH GIBSON (General Manager) met with the Minister for Resources, The Hon Wade Noonan, his Ministerial Advisor Owen Virtue and Departmental Representative Danny Suster on 23 August 2016.

The CMPA raised issues relating to Work Plans and Rehabilitation Bonds, ongoing for many years, which have been brought to the attention of the current and previous State Governments on numerous occasions. However, due to their complexity and the nature of the regulatory change processes involved, successive Governments have so far been unable to progress these issues to the satisfaction of the CMPA.

For example:

  1. Work Authority approval process: The current process requiring acceptance of a draft work plan by each of a number of agencies prior to its endorsement can lead to long and costly delays. If any agency refuses the Work Plan, the only recourse the applicant has is to VCAT to resolve that agencies issue. If successful the applicant has to start a new application process with the risk of the same or another agency refusing.
    This current process could potentially involve several VCAT hearings prior to the department’s Endorsement of the Work Plan which is then able to be used to start a Planning Permit application. What is now happening is, the Shire or Council planners are requesting further changes to the Endorsed Work Plan and then referring it to the same and additional agencies. If the Planning Permit application ends up in VCAT this can be a very lengthy and very costly approval process. What is apparent now is, there is a complete disconnect between the policy makers in the Department and what is happening in the Planning approvals process.
    To further compound this issue the officers responsible for assessing and Endorsing the Work Plans are either reluctant to or will not attend the relevant VCAT hearings to explain or defend their endorsement. In order to obtain an Endorsed Work Plan, hundreds of thousands of dollars may be spent on consultant’s reports yet  there is no certainty the planning permit will be issued by the local Planning Authority. The decision is often politically influenced and not based on sound technical, environmental or planning merit. The regional and State significance of a project can be too easily overlooked in such decisions which often result in the proponent seeking costly recourse at VCAT.
  2. Rehabilitation bonds: Rehabilitation bonds set for mines are more appropriate as the land is under the control of the Government whilst extractive activities are occurring. Additionally, coal mines and mines have a much higher and different risk profile to quarries. The ever increasing bonds for the extractive industry are an ongoing concern due to the drain on working capital and was one of the key reasons for establishment of the CMPA.
  3. Supply and demand of extractive resources: A worthwhile initiative which will, hopefully, lead to the prevention of inappropriate development on existing quarry buffers and identification and protection of future assets through planning mechanisms.

The CMPA believes planning approval (i.e. issue of a Planning Permit to use the land for an extractive industry), subject to the project obtaining a DEDJTR endorsed Work Plan to be preferable – determine whether the proposed Extractive Industry use can be permitted on the land, prior to embarking on a costly Work Plan endorsement.
An “Issues and Recommendations” paper summarising the issues raised together with recommendations was sent to the Minister via email after the meeting and is detailed below.

CMPA Issues and Recommendations

  1. Integration of Work Plan Endorsement, Planning Permit Approval and Work Authority Approval
    • Integrated Victorian Planning Practice Notes should be developed for DEDJTR, DELWP, Councils/Shires as the local Planning/Responsible Authority and VCAT; and
    • Demarcation in the roles of the Planning/Responsible Authority to only decide on the USE of the land for Extractive Industry purposes and thereafter DEDJTR/ERR to determine the appropriate form of DEVELOPMENT of the land for that purpose.
  2. Extractive Sector Work Plans
    The EDIC inquiry recommendation and Government response was to “Introduce changes to work plan requirements in the minerals regulations that are more risked based and less prescriptive, where such an approach is effective and practicable”.
    The new format is far too complex and does not yet meet the “draft Guiding Principles for Reformed Work Plan”, DEDJTR: a stream-lined and simplified process which leads to decreased costs for industry.
    • DEDJTR/ERR should demonstrate with sufficient evidence the above criteria (effective, practicable and evidence of need) are met by the Risk Based Work Plan format currently under implementation;
    • Consider using the risk based tool or other like instrument to establish mitigation measures for inclusion into the Work Plan;
    • Adjust RRAMs to only be a repository of primary Work Plan data and risk mitigation measures; and
    • Retain the existing (narrative style) Work Plan format for daily use by Quarry Managers and Work Authority holders.
  3. Extractive Sector Rehabilitation Bonds
    Rehabilitation Bonds are sterilising the working capital and ability to lend, of small to medium Extractive Sector operators, to the detriment of the resource access and production in Victoria.
    • Legislation, the cascading regulations and DEDJTR/ ERR should recognise extractive operations for locally consumed, low value construction materials, present the State with a vastly different risk profile to that of mines and coal seam gas (CSG), all administered under the MR(SD)A; and
    • Remove the unreasonable and highly contentious responsibility placed upon the Minister by deleting section 83(1)(c) from the MR(SD)A, in relation to the Extractives Sector.
  4. Supply and Demand of Extractive Resources – Further Priority Work
    • DEDJTR/Geological Survey of Victoria (GSV) to be re-engaged in the identification of strategic extractive resources to be protected in Victoria as a first order priority; and
    • DEDJTR/GSV to confirm available sand, aggregate and crushed rock resources to meet the State’s construction needs for the next 10 years under existing Work Authority approvals, i.e. proven resources, as opposed to speculative (subject to approvals) resources by region excluding clay and clay shale.
  5. Supporting Earth Resources Regulation
    • Prioritise the recruitment of additional ERR staff with extractive industry and land use planning qualifications and importantly, relevant industry experience; and
    • Expand the current level of engagement and educative work with the Work Plan referral agencies, Councils/Shires and VCAT as the local Planning/ Responsible Authorities.

The CMPA will enthusiastically embrace any opportunity to work collaboratively with Government in an effort to resolve these issues, which we believe threaten to adversely impact on the cost of public and private infrastructure in Victoria through increased construction material costs.

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