Talk about busy! The Legislative Council’s committees have released eight inquiry reports over the last several weeks, touching on everything from plastic waste reduction to a particular breed of ‘zombies’.
Scroll down to find information on each of the new reports, or use the links below if you wish to jump directly to a specific topic.
- Environmental planning instruments (SEPPs)
- Rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure
- Environmental Planning and Assessment and Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2021
- Coal and Gas Legislation Amendment (Liverpool Plains Prohibition) Bill 2021
- Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Cancellation of Zombie Petroleum Exploration Licences) Bill 2021
- Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Plastics Reduction) Bill 2021
- 2020 Review of the Compulsory Third Party Insurance Scheme
- 2020 Review of the Lifetime Care and Support Scheme
ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING INSTRUMENTS (SEPPS)
In March this year, the Regulation Committee began an inquiry into State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs), which are environmental planning instruments made under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This inquiry looked at the making of the instruments, and whether they should be subject to additional scrutiny by Parliament. It built on a previous report by the same committee, Making of delegated legislation in New South Wales, which explored delegated legislation as a form of law-making. The earlier report documented how the Upper House is currently excluded from disallowing, or vetoing, certain legislative instruments. This inquiry continued this exploration by examining whether the House should have the power to veto these instruments. Find all information on the inquiry here.
The inquiry report was tabled in August. In it, after exploring how SEPPs are made and scrutinised, the committee concludes that SEPPS are powerful instruments that should be subject to stronger consultation requirements and more parliamentary scrutiny. While the committee doesn’t recommend that SEPPs be made disallowable, its report does make other recommendations to improve parliamentary scrutiny – including making new SEPPs subject to sunset clauses, requiring biannual reporting to Parliament on SEPPs, and a way for the Regulation Committee to more systematically review them.
In addition, the committee provides recommendations to improve the transparency and availability of SEPPs. These include recommending improving consultation mechanisms for making SEPPs and online publishing of SEPPs and related documentation.
RATIONALE FOR, AND IMPACTS OF, NEW DAMS AND OTHER WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
This inquiry was self-referred by the Planning and Environment Committee in August 2020. It investigated the rationale for, and the impacts of, a number of new dams and other water infrastructure projects proposed by the NSW Government. Earlier this year the committee tabled part one of the inquiry report, focusing on the Wyangala Dam wall-raising project. Read more about this in our previous blog post.
The second part of the inquiry examined the Dungowan Dam and Pipeline project, the Mole River Dam project, the Macquarie River re-regulating storage project, the Western Weirs project and the Menindee Lakes Water Savings project. Learn more on the inquiry’s webpage.
The second part of the report was tabled in July. The report lists the committee’s findings relating to the five remaining water infrastructure projects and ultimately recommends that the government address the documented concerns. The key findings in the report document the potential negative ecological impacts of the projects. This includes impacts on vegetation, fish and birds. Further, the report questions the value for money of the proposed projects and whether they are the best ways of addressing water security in the regions. And finally, the committee’s report documents concerns relating to the impact of water infrastructure projects on First Nations communities. These include the disruption of spiritual connection to rivers and land, as well as the impacts on native animals, vegetation and existing water sources.
ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING AND ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT (INFRASTRUCTURE CONTRIBUTIONS) BILL 2021
This inquiry into the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill began in June this year. The bill was originally due to be considered as part of a package of ‘cognate’ bills delivered with the NSW Budget that month, but COVID saw these bills split out so the Houses could pass the main legislation of the budget (the ‘appropriation’ bills) – learn more on that here. While the bill has not yet been introduced to the Upper House, the Planning and Environment Committee’s inquiry into its provisions has now concluded, ready for when sittings resume. Essentially, the bill is part of a reform package seeking to improve the infrastructure contributions system in NSW. Infrastructure contributions are payments made by developers to fund the development of infrastructure, such as roads, drainage systems and other community services. This bill amends the Environmental Planning And Assessment Act 1979 and suggests that a regional scheme for infrastructure contributions be introduced into a number of high-growth NSW regions. Read more about the inquiry here.
The inquiry report was published in August. After reviewing more than 150 submissions and conducting digital public hearings, in the report the committee recommends that the bill not proceed until the draft regulations relating to the bill are produced and other related reports are released by the government – allowing members a full suite of relevant material to consider before debating the bill in the House.
COAL AND GAS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (LIVERPOOL PLAINS PROHIBITION) BILL 2021
This inquiry was established in early May this year to look at the provisions of the Coal and Gas Legislation Amendment (Liverpool Plains) Prohibition Bill. Referred to the Council’s Industry Committee, the bill seeks to prohibit all new mining operations in the Liverpool Plains region. Specifically, it would prevent the granting of new mining authorisations under the Mining Act 1992, prohibit new petroleum titles under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 and cancel any pending applications or approvals that have already been granted. Visit the inquiry’s webpage for more information.
The committee’s report was published in August. It brings together evidence gathered through written submissions and public hearing days, representing a wide range of views on the proposed mining prohibition. Its key recommendation is the Upper House proceed to debate on the bill, with the views highlighted in the report in mind. Some of the supporting views documented in the report include arguments regarding the region’s agricultural capacity and its Indigenous heritage. On the other hand, documented arguments against the bill include the mining business’ economic and social contribution to NSW as well as its potential for coexistence with agriculture.
PETROLEUM (ONSHORE) AMENDMENT (CANCELLATION OF ZOMBIE PETROLEUM EXPLORATION LICENCES) BILL 2021
This inquiry into the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Cancellation of Zombie Petroleum Exploration Licences) Bill was held in a tandem with the coal and gas legislation amendment bill inquiry above. Though the words ‘zombie’ and ‘licence’ might evoke images of the driving dead, the bill, put short, seeks to cancel expired and unused petroleum exploration licences located in the Liverpool Plains and other regions of NSW. At the time the bill was introduced in the Legislative Council, 12 so-called zombie petroleum exploration licences were ‘asleep’ and awaiting action – and some of them had been that way for up to 10 years. Find out more about the inquiry.
The committee’s report was released in August. In it, the committee acknowledges the NSW Government released its Future of Gas Statement shortly before the inquiry was due to deliver its report. The government’s statement rules out gas exploration on parts of the land in question, meaning that the initial 12 ‘sleeping’ licences have been reduced to four. These will only be renewed in order to support the Narrabri Gas Project.
The report therefore provides a summary of key findings from evidence gathered before the release of the Future of Gas Statement. The report also acknowledges that a lack of progress and transparency regarding the 12 former zombie licences had created uncertainty for communities, licence holders and other stakeholders, and suggests that the government provide information on the use of the exploration licences that remain open to support the Narrabri project.
WASTE AVOIDANCE AND RESOURCE RECOVERY AMENDMENT (PLASTICS REDUCTION) BILL 2021
This inquiry was established in early 2021 to explore the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Plastics Reduction) Bill, which was introduced to the Upper House by Ms Cate Faehrmann (Greens). The bill aims to reduce plastic waste in NSW through phasing out single-use plastic items such as plastic bags, cutlery and straws, as well as setting targets for recycling. Visit the inquiry’s webpage.
The final inquiry report was published mid-August. While the inquiry was taking place, the NSW Government released its NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy and Plastic Action Plan, including plans to phase out several single-use plastic products and improve recycling infrastructure. While this has an impact on the need for the original bill (with the committee recommending it not proceed through the Upper House), in its report the committee still documents support for plastic reduction legislation from inquiry participants and notes that it welcomes the government’s strategy. The committee observes that its report will remain available to provide information to the government as it develops its own legislation to phase out plastic items.
2020 REVIEW OF THE COMPULSORY THIRD PARTY INSURANCE SCHEME
This inquiry of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice is a regular oversight review of the state’s Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance scheme. Commenced in September 2020, the inquiry was conducted alongside a review of the Lifetime Care And Support Scheme (see below). Both reviews are required by the State Insurance Care Governance Act 2015 and are generally performed every two years. The CTP insurance scheme is one of several insurance and compensations schemes under the state’s motor accidents and workers compensation legislation. Find more information on this inquiry.
The committee’s report on the 2020 review was published at the end of July this year. It documents a number of issues related to the scheme and recommends that these be considered as areas for potential reform in the current review of the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017.
2020 REVIEW OF THE LIFETIME CARE AND SUPPORT SCHEME
The Standing Committee on Law and Justice began this inquiry in tandem with the above in September last year. The committee reviewed the state’s critical assistance to those with severe injuries from motor vehicle accidents, such as brain and spinal cord injuries. In particular, committee members looked at the scheme’s financial sustainability and the service and quality standards that apply to support service providers in that sector. This scheme, like the CTP insurance scheme, is one of the state’s schemes for motor accidents and workers compensations legislation. Read more on the inquiry.
The committee released the report in July. It concludes that the scheme is in a strong financial position, with sufficient assets to support its ongoing obligations to participants. The committee notes that they will continue to monitor the scheme’s financial position to provide a long term view.