VIC: Ambitious emissions reduction target set by Government
The Victorian Government has set itself an ambitious emissions reduction targets by cutting Victoria’s emissions by 75–80% by 2035. The ambitious target builds on the Government having already cut the State’s emissions by 32.3% below 2005 levels and it is understood it will be legislated under Victoria’s Climate Change Act 2017 later this year.
The Government is proposing to achieve the ambitious targets by implementing zero-emissions transport, helping farmers cut emissions, storing carbon in our landscape and driving down emissions in the waste sector through the circular economy.
QLD: Queensland Government responds to GasFields Commission Queensland recommendations
The Queensland Government has released its response to the GasFields Commission Queensland recommendations following the regulatory review into coal seam gas-induced subsidence. This is relevant for CSG projects, particularly in areas that have mapped regional planning interests in respect of agricultural or cropping land.
The Commission’s report on the review included eight recommendations to the Government to address the concerns relating to the adequacy of the regulatory framework to protect landholders from the potential impacts of CSG-induced subsidence on farming operations. The Government has accepted the Commission’s review and has indicated that it will support six of the eight recommendations in full and two in principle.
The Government has proposed to take several actions including:
- establishing and implementing an adaptive management framework in the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2014that assesses impacts from CSG-induced subsidence, and provides an appropriate remedy for affected parties;
- establishing and implementing an adaptive management framework to provide for a new subsidence agreement, which would detail an agreed management plan between a landholder and tenure holder, and outline the actions that a tenure holder would be required to undertake to manage farm scale impacts from CSG-induced subsidence. Additionally, the proposed subsidence agreement would provide for how and when any compensation to the landholder will be determined and paid;
- creating a clear independent assessment and dispute resolution process for all affected landholders and proponents to resolve disputes relating to CSG-induced subsidence;
- progressing work to expand the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment functions to undertake regional risk assessments and develop modelling and monitoring tools to support farm scale assessments relating to CSG-induced subsidence; and
- establishing a framework which recognizes that the reasonable costs of agronomy and irrigation specialist advice required to facilitate negotiations under the CSG-induced subsidence framework should be borne by resource tenure holders.
NT: Darwin-Katherine Battery Energy Storage System (DK BESS) reaches another milestone
In December 2022 we reported that the civil and building works for DK BESS had reached completion. On 14 May 2023, the Territory Government announced the passing of a further milestone with all 192 batteries, each weighing 3.5 tonnes, being installed and the project progressing to the first stages of pre-commissioning. It is understood that by using a temporary power supply in combination with an AC/DC power converter, the battery modules will be charged and discharged to test their functions before being connected to the 11kV switch room.
Once commissioned, DK BESS is intended to replace some gas-fired generation at the Channel Island Power Station and strengthen the Darwin-Katherine system to support increased solar and is forecast to reduce Territory carbon emissions by approximately 58,000 tonnes a year.
SA: Release of the draft Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill: have your say
On 12 May 2023, the South Australian Government released its draft Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill 2023 for public consultation. The draft Bill has been drafted based on feedback received from the previous consultation on the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act Issues Paper, stakeholder meetings, regional roadshows and engagement in Korea and Japan.
As noted in the Explanatory Guide, the draft Bill proposes to create an "efficient, flexible, transparent, and consultative licensing and regulatory framework” for hydrogen generation and renewable energy infrastructure in South Australia, particularly through a "one window to government” legislative approach.
Some of its key aspects include:
- regulating renewable energy and commercial hydrogen generation projects for their entire lifecycles, with streamlined and transparent regulatory processes to ensure certainty and efficiency of the process;
- five classes of licences to be enforced under the Act, varying in authorisation, conditions and duration depending on the proposed operations;
- creating a greater focus on consultation between proponents/developers with Indigenous communities on proposals and licencing; including the requirement for consent to be given by affected registered native title holders and claimants before any license may be granted or renewed under the Act (except for special enterprise licences);
- the requirement for proponents to complete, consult on and publish an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Statement of Environmental Objectives for any operations requiring a licence under the Act; and
- a competitive tender process for companies to seek licences to use Government-owned land and waters for their projects.
Submissions on the draft Bill can be made until 12pm on Monday 26 June 2023 in the manner prescribed here.
NT: Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing Final Implementation Report published
In 2018, the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing, chaired by Justice Rachel Pepper, concluded in its final report that risks posed by the onshore gas industry could be managed if all of the Inquiry's 135 recommendation were implemented. The Territory Government’s Final Implementation Report, handed down in May 2023, outlines the implementation actions taken by the Government in response to the Inquiry since 2018 which was overseen by Dr David Ritchie (who was also a member of the original Inquiry panel as an Independent Officer).
The Final Report outlines the ongoing work the NT Government will undertake to ensure that its response and regulation of hydraulic fracturing and the onshore petroleum industry continues to mitigate the risks identified by the Inquiry.
A key feature of the Government's response to the Inquiry has been the implementation of the Strategic Regional Environment and Baseline Assessment (SREBA), which provides comprehensive and reliable data across six domains that address the substantial information gaps identified by the Inquiry.
The completion of the implementation stage for the Inquiry recommendations marks the beginning of ongoing risk management of the onshore petroleum industry. Moving forward, the Territory Government is responsible for regulating and monitoring the industry and evaluating the effectiveness of the reforms implemented to address the Inquiry recommendations.
We will be considering the Final Report in more detail in a future Insights.
NT: Imminent release of the first strategic water plan for the Territory
We previous examined the Territory's draft Water Plan when it was released for public consultation in 2022. The Territory Government has now announced it plans to release the Water Plan in final in June 2023, making it the first strategic long-term plan for water security across the Northern Territory. The Plan's forecasted priority actions include:
- ensuring all Territorians have access to safe drinking water and building the capability of water service providers to improve water outcomes for Aboriginal homelands;
- partnering with Aboriginal organisations to develop a framework and methodology for understanding the cultural values of water;
- accelerating the existing water science program to support best practice water resource management and sustainable development; and
- resourcing the Office of Water Security to lead the implementation of legislation, policy reform and community engagement on water stewardship initiatives.
The Territory Government has reported that a number of commitments made within the draft Territory Water Plan were highlighted in the Northern Territory’s contribution to the United Nations Water Action Agenda (WAA) and subsequently formalised following the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Security’s attendance at the first United Nations Conference on Water since 1977. The WAA commitments include:
- the introduction of a Safe Drinking Water Act;
- a commitment to working in partnership with the Australian Government to deliver water infrastructure projects for First Nations communities; and
- establishing an Aboriginal Water Security Advisory Council by 2024.
QLD: Proposed public housing dedication for residential development
On 19 April 2023, Dr Amy MacMahon, the Greens Member for South Brisbane, introduced the Planning (Inclusionary Zoning Strategy) Amendment Bill 2023 (Amendment Bill) into the Queensland Parliament to enact an inclusionary zoning strategy which would require developers to dedicated 25% of residential dwellings or lots where it is a subdivision as public housing. The Bill was subsequently referred to the State Development and Regional Industries Committee for detailed consideration and report by 19 October 2023.
If the Bill is passed unchanged, it will amend the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) to require that the Queensland Government introduce a bill into the Legislative Assembly within two months of the date of assent of the Amendment Bill that achieves the following objectives as part of the solution to the housing crisis:
Objectives for residential construction projects
- applies to development, carried out by an entity other than the state, related to the construction of 10 or more dwellings;
- requires that for all residential construction projects completed on or after 1 July 2024, at least 25% of the dwellings (rounded up to the nearest whole number) constructed for the project are to be reserved for transfer (at no cost) to the State of Queensland for the purpose of providing public housing; and
- each reserved dwelling is to be, as far as practicable, finished to the same standard, and have the same features, as the other dwellings constructed for the residential development project, including size and floor area.
Objectives for residential subdivision projects
- applies to development, carried out by an entity other than the State, which subdivides 1 lot into 10 or more lots on which dwellings can lawfully be constructed;
- requires that for all residential subdivision projects completed on or after 1 July 2024, at least 25% of the lots (rounded up to the nearest whole number) created for the project are to be reserved for transfer (at no cost) to the State of Queensland for the purpose of providing public housing; and
- each reserved lot is, as far as practicable, to have an area equal to, or greater than, the average area of all lots created for the residential subdivision project.
The Amendment Bill applies on residential development and subdivision projects completed after 1 July 2024, however it is unclear whether there will be any carve outs for projects which are approved prior to the commencement of any legislated mandates. Further discussion for the basis of the Amendment Bill can be found in the Explanatory Notes.
Submissions to the Committee must be made by 5pm, Friday 16 June 2023 in the manner prescribed here.
QLD: Review of 2020 koala regulations: have your say
The Queensland Government has released the Consultation Post Implementation Review (the Consultation PIR) which outlines three options for the review of the koala habitat regulations under the Planning Regulation 2017 (Qld).
On 7 February 2020, amendments to the Planning Regulation 2017 (Qld) made by the Nature Conservation and Other Legislation (Koala Protection) Amendment Regulation 2020 (2020 Koala Regulations) commenced and relevantly operated as follows unless an exemption applied:
- prohibited development that would interfere with a koala habitat that is both a KPA and koala habitat area; and
- made development, to the extent it involves interfering with koala habitat in an area that is a koala habitat area but not in a KPA, assessable development.
The Consultation PIR outlines the following three possible options for the future of the 2020 Koala Regulations and assesses the costs and benefits associated with these options:
Option 1: Status quo
Retaining the 2020 koala regulations without any changes of a regulatory or non-regulatory nature.
Option 2: Clarification of regulatory requirements
This option involves minor regulatory amendment to:
- clarify the intended application of the prohibition, development assessment and exempted development provisions;
- develop a process for notification to the department of koala habitat clearing;
- establish a new self-assessment pathway which supports small scale rural and residential development to; and
- minimise impacts on koalas.
Option 3: Regulatory improvement (recommended option)
This option involves regulatory review and amendment to:
- reduce complexity of exemptions and remove ambiguity of partial exemptions and interaction with other legislation;
- establish clear thresholds above which development assessment or prohibition is required;
- clarify the intended application of the prohibition, development assessment and exempted development provisions (same as option 2);
- develop a process for notification to the department of koala habitat clearing (same as option 2); and
- establish a new self-assessment pathway which supports small scale rural and residential development to minimise impacts on koalas (same as option 2).
The 2020 Koala Regulations are relevant to land affected by the koala habitat mapping and may prohibit or make assessable development any development which is proposed on those properties unless an exemption applies.
Submissions in relation to the options currently being considered for review of the 2020 Koala Regulations must be made by 5 June 2023 in the manner prescribed here.
TAS: New amendments to allow for public disclosure of environmental monitoring information
The Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 has been subject to recent amendments, most notably the insertion of a new section 23AA which allows for the exercise of the discretion by the Director of the EPA to release environmental monitoring information.
The term "environmental monitoring information" includes data:
- resulting from, or linked to, monitoring the environmental effects of an activity;
- collected under an environmental licence, environmental protection notice, permit, environmental protection policy or according to environmental standards; and
- provided under the Act or any other prescribed Act to the EPA which is contrary to a requirement imposed on an individual under section 43 or 92 of the Act.
It is understood that a project team within the EPA has been tasked with developing EPA's resources to determine what information is eligible for release to the public under section 23AA.
As a first phase of this project, the Environmental Monitoring Information Disclosure Policy has been published which provides guidance as to how the Director of the EPA intends to exercise the discretion to release environmental monitoring information. It also sets out the policy approach to the active disclosure of information collected under Part 5A of the Act and/or the Underground Petroleum Storage Systems Regulations 2020 by the Director of the EPA.
There are two further phases of the project:
- Phase Two (April-December 2023) – Development and implementation of internal processes and a central organisational repository for storing and accessing monitoring information.
- Phase Three (early 2024) – Delivery of a product that allows members of the public to search for and access documents associated with monitoring.
SA: Definitions for climate change and GHG emissions inserted into environment legislation: what does this mean?
On 3 May 2023, the SA Minister for Minister for Climate, Environment and Water introduced the Environment Protection (Objects of Act and Board Attributes) Amendment Bill 2023 to bring the Environment Protection Act 1993 (SA) (EP Act) up to date with the State's actions to protect the environment, particularly efforts for "stronger action on both climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation".
Currently there is no specific reference to climate change under the EP Act, therefore, the new Bill proposes amendments to ensure that, as per the Object of the Act, climate change (including climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation) will be explicitly considered for applications for environmental authorisations under the EP Act. The proposed amendments will also provide for greater scope in future environmental protection policies, which can have a key focus on climate change and greenhouse gas emission prevention and management.
Specifically, if passed, the Bill will amend the EP Act to:
- insert definitions for "climate change adaption", "climate change mitigation" and "greenhouse gas emissions" under the "Interpretation" section of the Act (section 3);
- modify the SA EP Act to add specific references to climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation and climate change under the 'Object' section of the Act (section 10); and
- impose a requirement under section 14B(5)(ca) for the Board of the Environment Protection Authority of South Australia to include a person (or persons) who have "practical knowledge of, and experience in, climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation".
WA: Draft Bushfire SPP and Guidelines out for consultation
The Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) recently released its draft revised State Planning Policy 3.7: Bushfire (SPP 3.7) and Planning for Bushfire Guidelines (Guidelines) for public consultation.
The WAPC is currently undertaking a significant review of its bushfire safety and risk management framework, which assists the State manage the risk of bushfires to people, property, and infrastructure in WA. This review is designed to bring the SPP 3.7 and Guidelines up to date with contemporary best-practices for bushfire prone areas in WA and has been informed by the findings in the WA Government's 2019 Bushfire Framework Review.
The SPP 3.7 and Guidelines is proposed to apply to land classified as designated bushfire prone on the Map of Bushfire Prone Areas, where the proposal for that land will:
- result in the intensification of development (or land use); and/or
- result in an increase of visitors, residents or employees; and/or
- adversely impact or increase the bushfire risk to the subject or surrounding site(s).
Proposals to which SPP 3.7 and the Guidelines may apply include high order strategic planning proposals, strategic planning proposals, subdivision and development applications, and proposals to develop an area not yet designated but may pose a future bushfire hazard.
Some of the key policy changes in the SPP 3.7 and Guidelines are:
- a greater consideration of bushfire requirements as early as possible in the planning stages;
- a focus on "outcome-based decision-making" to achieve the outcomes of SPP 3.7, where compliance with acceptable solutions may be unachievable due to site or environmental constraints;
- the Guidelines have been redesigned into specific sections on how SPP 3.7 and the Guidelines can be applied to different types of planning and development proposals;
- more comprehensive guidance on developing a bushfire management plan (BMP) and bushfire emergency plan (BEP) (see Appendix C and D of Guidelines); and
- targeted policy approaches to satisfy the requirements under SPP 3.7 and the Guidelines, depending on whether the proposal falls under Area 1 or Area 2 of the Bush Fire Prone Areas.
It is important to note that the draft SPP 3.7 and Guidelines have been released for consultation only and will be subject to substantial changes after the formal consultation process. Therefore, these documents will not be given any weight in planning decision-making until finalised.
A copy of the draft SPP 3.7, the Guidelines, Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas and Explanatory Notes are available on the Consultation Hub, and feedback can be provided via the Online Survey until Monday, 17 July 2023.
Special thanks to Nicole Besgrove (Brisbane) for co-ordinating the ESD 5 Minute Fix and to Isabella Fiolo (Perth), Joseph McDonald (Melbourne), Tom Flower (Melbourne), Madeleine Grant (Darwin) and Sarah Gough (Brisbane) for their contribution to this edition.