On 4 March 2009, the Nation Building and Jobs Plan (State Infrastructure Delivery) Bill 2009, was introduced for a second reading in the NSW parliament. The object of this Bill is to ensure the timely delivery in NSW of infrastructure projects funded by the Commonwealth under the Nation Building and Jobs Plan. This is necessary in order to meet the condition in the February 2009 COAG agreement which stipulates States will forfeit Commonwealth funding if they do not deliver projects on time.
A key aspect of the Bill is the establishment of an Infrastructure Co-ordinator General who will have broad ranging powers to direct and manage infrastructure projects funded by the Commonwealth under the Nation Building and Jobs Plan.
Overview of the Bill
(a) establishes a NSW Infrastructure Co-ordinator General who will be responsible for planning and implementing the timely delivery of the infrastructure projects (Part 2), and
(b) establishes an advisory Taskforce consisting of government and private sector representatives (Part 2), and
(c) requires State government agencies to co-operate with the Co-ordinator General in relation to infrastructure projects (Part 3), and
(d) provides for the Co-ordinator General to take over the delivery of infrastructure projects on behalf of State government agencies (Part4), and
(e) enables the Co-ordinator General to streamline the planning and other approval processes for infrastructure projects.
Key Aspects of the Bill
- Clause 5 makes it clear that the bill only applies to projects funded by the Commonwealth under the Nation Building and Jobs Plan.
- Examples of the type of infrastructure projects included are:
- Halls, libraries and maintenance work for government and non-government schools, social housing, community infrastructure provided by local councils and local transport infrastructure such as road repairs, railway boom gates and road safety "black spots" projects.
- Project authorisation orders will be able to be made by either the Premier or the portfolio Minister for the works. Such orders will be made where project delivery timeframes would not otherwise be met by the relevant agency and it is necessary for the Co-ordinator General to take over the delivery of the project to make sure that it is delivered on time.
- If such an order is made the Co-ordinator General will be able to exercise all of the functions of the agency in relation to the project.
- The Co-ordinator General will also be able to issue directions to the agency, with the concurrence of the Minister who made the order and after consulting with the agency, and the agency must comply with those directions.
- The bill also provides that the Co-ordinator General can establish alternative procurement and tendering frameworks for the infrastructure projects to ensure that the projects can be delivered on time.
- Part 5 of the bill allows the Co-ordinator General to vary the usual planning and environmental approval processes in relation to infrastructure projects to ensure that the projects can be delivered within the timeframes required by the Commonwealth.
- The Government has also recently made important changes to the Infrastructure State and Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] to streamline the approvals processes for school infrastructure and affordable housing. The processes under the infrastructure SEPP will be taken advantage of wherever possible to deliver these projects.
- The definition of development control legislation has been drafted widely to cover any Act, regulation or instrument that prohibits the carrying out of development or that requires the approval of any person or body before development is carried out.
- Where the Co-ordinator General makes an order that an authorisation is required under part 5 to undertake the infrastructure project, clause 24 sets out the application and authorisation process.
- Importantly, the Co-ordinator General can impose those conditions on an authorisation which he/she deems appropriate, including requirements to provide for public notification, environmental protection, heritage conservation, threatened species protection and bushfire protection. This will ensure that appropriate conditions are imposed on development authorised under part 5.
A full copy of the Bill can be found by clicking here.