The Western Australian Government has announced that more than $1.6 million will be invested in cutting application wait times for major resource projects, a decision which has been welcomed by the industry.
The State Government expects that this funding could assist at least 17 projects currently seeking regulatory approvals. In total, these projects are estimated to create almost 18,300 construction jobs and more than 4,500 operational jobs.
The additional funding will support State Government regulatory authorities in managing a significant increase in applications for key environmental, mining and heritage approvals, related to these major projects.
Resource market trends, such as the expansion of the gold and iron ore sectors due to high commodity prices, and WA’s reputation as an attractive and safe destination for resource investment, are driving the surge in applications.
To ensure the growing number of applications does not delay approvals for major projects, the WA Government will fund additional surge capacity across the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation including Environmental Protection Authority services, the Department of Planning, Land and Heritage, the Department of Mining, Industry Regulation and Safety, and the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.
All four authorities have also agreed to work together on a number of new measures that will facilitate better co-ordination and the prioritisation of approvals for major projects across government.
These immediate short term actions have been taken in response to feedback from industry stakeholders, and ensures approvals for major projects will proceed in parallel with longer-term regulatory reform.
Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, said the funding will fast-track approvals and potentially create thousands of jobs for Western Australians.
“WA’s strong response to the pandemic has meant confidence has returned to our economy, with major projects in the pipeline in coming years,” the Premier said.
“As a Government, we are focused on ensuring these projects are not delayed, so we can create jobs and support the economy while maintaining high environmental and heritage standards.”
“Our resources sector is the engine room of the nation, and it’s crucial we support the sector to continue our recovery and create jobs and training opportunities for Western Australians.”
“We’re investing more than $1.6 million in additional short term specialist roles that will help our regulatory authorities process a surge in applications for key environmental, mining and heritage approvals,” Mr McGowan said.
“As an attractive and safe destination for resource investment before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that the number of applications for major projects will only continue to increase into the foreseeable future.”
“We know from listening to industry stakeholders that making sure our regulatory authorities have the ability to process applications consistently and efficiently is key to unlocking the economic benefits major projects can deliver for Western Australians,” he added.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) Director of Policy and Advocacy, Rob Carruthers, said the investment was welcomed and that the mining and resources sector looked forward to ongoing reform around approvals.
“CME welcomes any measure to reduce approval timeframes and improve regulatory outcomes, which is why it has supported the National Cabinet’s commitment to bilateral approvals,” Mr Carruthers said.
“Given increased activity across the mining and resources sector, CME strongly endorses the announcement by the WA Government to provide additional processing capacity to work through high volumes of approvals.”
“CME looks forward to the next WA government prioritising delivery of structural reforms to reduce unnecessary duplication and procedural delays across project approval processes,” he commented.
“These reforms have the capacity to bring forward both economic investment and job creation, while ensuring robust regulatory outcomes.”