Shadow Environment Minister Hon Tjorn Sibma MLC has criticised the McGowan Government for delays to the Environment Online project, a $28 million digital approvals management platform which the Government previously claimed would save proponents between “six to twelve months” in having their proposals assessed.
In an answer to a recent parliamentary question, the Minster for Environment was unable to advise a specific date for when the first of seven proposed digital portals – also referred to as minimum viable products – would go live – but expressed a vague hope that it might occur in the first half of this year.
Selected industry participants would instead be invited to test the functionality of the system later this month.
“Despite five years of red-tape reduction rhetoric the McGowan Government is struggling to deliver the basics of an environmental approvals system it has promised budget after budget.
“The Minister cannot provide any certainty for when Environment Online, will actually come online.
“This is despite spending approximately $9 million on development and employing 61 Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) staff and contractors to date,” said Mr Sibma.
Mr Sibma said he felt some sympathy for the new Environment Minister, the third Labor Minister to hold the portfolio in the last twelve months, who is coming to grips with the inaction of his immediate predecessor.
This delay comes at a critical time when there is a backlog of private and public sector projects worth billions of dollars awaiting proper environmental assessment, and the timeline on approvals has blown out to thousands of days for some key projects.
Mr Sibma said that the delayed implementation of Environment Online is likely to mean that the entire project runs behind schedule, with full functionality probably deferred two or more years behind the original 2023 completion date.
“The promised time and cost savings are years away; so, proponents will have little choice but to wade through a bureaucratic, cumbersome and duplicative approvals system for the foreseeable future,” Mr Sibma said.