Emergency Measures on Environmental Planning and Assessment Act: What You Need To Know

The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 commenced on 25 March 2020. The Act introduced a broad range of public health and emergency response powers to enable the NSW Government to respond to public health emergencies during COVID-19. These powers have already resulted in changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and the Act’s Regulations.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment have invited representatives from the National Trust (NSW), along with other key stakeholders in the field of conservation and advocacy, to regular briefings on changes to the Act and relevant policies and processes so that we may assist in keeping the wider community informed and engaged.

Changes to Date – 25 March 2020: New Ministerial Powers

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 was amended on 25 March 2020 to include two new clauses:

  1. 17 COVID-19 pandemic–Ministerial orders and
  2. 18 COVID-19 pandemic–public inspection of documents

The changes allow the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to make an order for development to be carried out without the normal planning approval in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. These orders will be made in consultation with the Minister for Health and Medical Research.

With regards to 10.17, any documents that are required under the Act or the Regulations to be made publicly available will be made available on the NSW planning portal. This includes public exhibitions for local government. Physical printed copies are not required during this time and can instead be viewed on Council websites.

An up to date list of Ministerial Orders that have been made can be found on the Planning System Accelerated Program webpage.

Changes to Date – 30 April 2020: Public Meetings and Community Consultation

Due to the requirements of physical distancing, long-established forms of communication and consultation are no longer appropriate. Public meetings that would ordinarily be held in local halls, libraries or Council Chambers are not able to be facilitated in the interests of public health.  People are also unable to use facilities at local libraries to read or print out government reports and assessments.

The community needs to go online to seek out this information. But where?

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation was amended on 30 April 2020 to include special provisions for the electronic broadcast of public meetings and public hearings for Local, District/Regional Panels and the Independent Planning Commission. This is intended to allow public participation where the COVID rules would prevent such physical gatherings.

Changes to Date: 5 May 2020 – Fast Tracking Assessments and Approvals

The NSW Government has already made changes to the planning system to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, to stimulate the economy, and to secure and grow employment. Numerous initiatives have commenced, including the fast-tracking of assessments to accelerate approval for selected development applications and rezoning planning proposals. The first tranche of 24 fast-tracked developments have been announced. These regrettably include Snowy 2.0.

Staying Up To Date on Planning, Industry and Environment Changes With the National Trust (NSW)

To assist in understanding these changes, the National Trust will maintain this regularly updated news item and communicate about changes via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You can also subscribe to our eNews where we will provide updates on any changes related to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s COVID-19 response initiatives.