Tasmania’s Environmental and Planning Law Framework
The Resource Management and Planning System (RMPS) is an integrated approach to development assessment and environmental planning in Tasmania.
The RMPS is underpinned by the following objectives:
- To promote the sustainable development of natural and physical resources and the maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity;
- To provide for the fair, orderly and sustainable use and development of air, land and water;
- To encourage public involvement in resource management and planning;
- To facilitate economic development in accordance with these objectives; and
- To promote the sharing of responsibility for resource management and planning.
The RMPS applies to most legislation dealing with the regulation and management of natural resources, therefore these objectives must be taken into account in most decisions regarding use and development in Tasmania.
Of the suite of legislation included in the RMPS, there are two main components of the integrated approvals process – development control and environmental management. Generally, developments are assessed under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 and environmental impacts are assessed and managed under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994. Both Acts are discussed in greater detail below.
Exclusions to the RMPS
A number of resource management activities are excluded from the RMPS and regulated under separate legislative and administrative frameworks. These activities include marine farming, mineral exploration, and public and private forestry operations. These industries are discussed separately.
Participants within the RMPS
There are a number of important participants in the RMPS, including:
- Local councils;
- Tasmanian Planning Commission;
- Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal;
- Board of the Environment Protection Authority;
- Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment; and
- The community.
Local councils (which are often referred to as ’planning authorities’ in relation to development decisions) , are responsible for developing, administering and enforcing planning schemes to regulate land use and development within a local government area. Most development decisions in Tasmania are made by planning authorities.
Every local council in Tasmania (currently 29 in total) has a planning scheme that is available for public viewing at council offices and on the council website. Some council areas have more than one planning scheme. While there is currently little consistency between these schemes, the Tasmanian Planning Commission has developed a standard template which planning authorities must adopt. All planning schemes are expected to be more consistent by mid-2013.
Local councils also have a statutory responsibility to prevent and control pollution under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 and a host of environmental obligations under the Local Government Act 1993 and the Public Health Act 1997.
The Tasmanian Planning Commission
The Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC) took over from the Resource Planning and Development Commission in 2009.
The TPC performs a variety of functions in respect of land-use planning and development under several pieces of legislation including: the Land Use Planning And Approvals Act 1993, the State Policies and Projects Act 1993, the Public Land (Administration and Forests) Act 1991, the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 and the Water Management Act 1999.
The principal functions of the TPC are to:
- Assess planning schemes (including amendments) ,
- Prepare the State of the Environment report,
- Advise the Planning Minister and planning authorities on planning schemes and planning issues,
- Review State policies,
- Assess Projects of State Significance (such as Basslink and Lauderdale Quay),
- Review water management plans, and
- Review management plans for national parks and reserves.
The Resource and Planning Stream of the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
The Resource and Planning Stream of the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal was established under the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2020 to consolidate a number of Tribunals dealing with planning and resource management decisions. The Tribunal is now the most important forum for the resolution of environmental and planning issues in Tasmania and nearly all land use disputes are heard in the Tribunal in the first instance. However, the Tribunal cannot hear disputes relating to forestry or the granting of mining or marine farming leases.
The Tribunal is less formal than a court and is intended to make it easier for members of the public to appeal against administrative acts and decisions. For example, the Tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence, conducts public hearings and has a simpler, less technical hearing process. Comprehensive information can be found on the Tribunal website.
Board of the Environment Protection Authority
The Board of the EPA reviews development applications that are submitted to a planning authority where the activity proposed is a Level 2 activity (that is, activities listed in Schedule 2 of EMPCA, such as abattoirs and sewerage treatment plants) or has been called in for assessment because of its potential for significant environmental impacts. The Board of the EPA assesses applications on the basis of their potential environmental impacts, such as impacts on biodiversity, cultural heritage, pollution, effects on groundwater, and waste management.
Planning authorities are bound to implement a decision of the EPA Board so, if the Board recommends refusal the planning authority must not grant a permit for the development.
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) is the principal agency responsible for administering the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994. Authorised officers of DPIPWE have the power to issue an Environment Protection Notice, serve an offender with an Environmental Infringement Notice and to institute civil enforcement proceedings or criminal proceedings for breaches relating to causing environmental harm.
DPIPWE also administer legislation relating to water management, threatened species, marine farming, contaminated sites and agricultural chemicals.
There are numerous opportunities for public participation in planning and management processes under the RMPS. For example, a member of the community may:
- Request an amendment to a local planning scheme or make a representation about a proposed amendment;
- Recommend that a species be listed as threatened;
- Object to proposed developments in their neighbourhood;
- Appeal against council decisions to grant planning permits;
- Request a local council or DPIPWE to issue an Environment Protection Notice against a polluter;
- Comment on environmental impact assessments;
- Make submissions regarding development applications, Projects of State Significance and Projects of Regional Significance;
- Comment on proposed Water Management Plans; and
- Take civil enforcement proceedings to stop breaches of environmental and planning legislation.