MRA Brief on New Major Projects Pathway in NSW
By Esther Hughes, MRA Consulting Group
The Rapid Assessments Framework is on exhibition until 12 February. A significant time-reduction will be achieved by a 7-day turnaround for the issuing of industry-specific SEARs, which will not require a scoping report.
Other draft measures include:
- Standardising online applications,
- Introducing guidelines for preparing assessment reports,
- Minor revisions to content for environmental impact statements, and
- Requiring certification of environmental assessment reports by registered practitioners.
Unfortunately, waste and resource recovery applications are not eligible for the fast-tracked industry-specific SEARs, which applies to less-complex developments, such as hospitals and warehouses as well as identified sites and precincts. Waste applications will remain under project-specific SEARs, for which a scoping report is required, and the 28-day timeframe for issuing the SEARs will still apply. The existing process results in approximately 2 months’ delay before the Environmental Impact Statement can be effectively commenced.
Under the new framework, environmental assessment requirements will be formalised, with a suite of guidelines now in draft form. It is anticipated that the new guidelines will result in less frustration around the submissions and review process, and fewer dodgy waste-related applications.
The new scheme to register practitioners is another means to ensure the standard of applications is high, requiring both relevant qualifications and a minimum 10 years’ experience. It is a welcome measure overall, and MRA is keen to be part of the registered practitioner scheme.
This kind of prequalification should not be seen a replacement for specialised knowledge of the waste industry, EPA licensing expectations and accumulated approvals experience. It does however serve to ensure a quantitative baseline. MRA urges interested parties to voice their opinion on the draft measures via the department website.
MRA specialises in waste and resource recovery and in the 2020 Inside Waste Annual Consultants Review, MRA was judged best in 8 out of 11 categories (across all consultancies large and small), including ‘Best Small Consultancy in Australia’ and number one ranking for ‘Strategy, Policy and Planning’. Recent planning experience includes: organics processing, MRFs, C&I sorting, C&D sorting, EfW, drilling muds, secondary processing and landfilling.