The decision today by Environment Minister Greg Hunt to progress the assessment of 47 resources projects covered by the so-called "water trigger" removes one of the blockages in Australia's complex approvals system.

But in doing so, these projects will now be subjected to further unnecessary regulatory delay.

It is profoundly disappointing that the new Minister is in a position where he is required under laws established by the previous Parliament to send these projects for assessment under the water trigger.

It is an unnecessary, duplicative piece of legislation introduced by the last Parliament for political rather than environmental purposes.

It merely duplicates existing powers under state laws and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Prior to the introduction of the water trigger there were strong provisions in the EPBC Act and state laws to safeguard the environment, and particularly any risk from development on water resources.

The projects listed for further assessment under the water trigger today will continue to be delayed by unnecessary green tape with little or no substantiated environmental benefit.

The water trigger, including the restriction on bilateral agreements for accreditation of state approval processes, should be abolished in the interests of further streamlining Australia’s approvals processes.

The minerals industry has long advocated the need to streamline federal and state processes such that the Commonwealth sets the standards for environmental responsibilities under the EPBC Act and devolves assessment and approvals functions to the states - with appropriate audit checks and balances in place.
Such an approach will support further economic development while also ensuring the maintenance of high levels of environmental protection.

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