More transparency needed on new environmental fees and charges

Shadow Environment Minister Hon Tjorn Sibma MLC has demanded greater transparency of the McGowan Government’s plans to introduce new fees to conduct environmental impact assessments, which are needed to approve development proposals.
The Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations are expected to come into effect in January 2022, even though industry has only very recently received a draft copy from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).
“While it is acknowledged that the resource industry supports the introduction of a cost recovery model, but the proposed fee schedule appears excessive to the point of over-recovery. The rushed introduction of this hastily designed scheme risks undermining Western Australia’s economic competitiveness,” Mr Sibma said.
“Industry is concerned that DWER has not shared the model upon which its cost recovery proposal is based and therefore the assumptions of the price model have been hidden from scrutiny.
“I once again call upon the Minister for Environment to release this information in the interests of transparency.
“The Minister also needs to explain how the cost recovery scheme will accommodate the variable complexity of development proposals and result in improved efficiency in the approvals process.”
“The introduction of cost recovery for environmental impact assessments is important, so it is essential that the scheme is implemented in a thoughtful and pragmatic way which protects the environment and is economically sensible,” Mr Sibma added.
“There is no good reason why these regulations must come into effect on 1 January 2022. It would be more appropriate if DWER takes the time to get the model right and gradually phases-in the fees from the commencement of the 2022-23 Financial Year.”
Mr Sibma suggests that the proposed cost recovery scheme should also be reviewed by an independent expert authority such as the Economic Regulation Authority prior to implementation and then be subject to regular audits to ensure that it is working properly.
“I am always worried that Government is tempted to over-charge and under-deliver on its services, so it is essential that external scrutiny is applied to this cost recovery scheme.” Mr Sibma said.