Climate concerns over WA red tape plan

WA Premier Mark McGowan says more government staff will be hired to speed up project approvals.
WA Premier Mark McGowan says more government staff will be hired to speed up project approvals.

Conservationists are urging the West Australian government not to undermine environmental protections in its mission to slash red tape.

An additional 150 staff will be hired across five WA government agencies to speed up project approvals as part of a $120 million plan announced on Wednesday.

They include the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, which oversees applications by resources companies to disturb culturally significant Aboriginal heritage sites.

Premier Mark McGowan said the investment would help agencies to meet demand for timely assessments and approvals "while ensuring the protection of our environment, heritage, and of worker and community safety."

Conservation Council WA director Piers Verstegen said ensuring developers complied with environmental safeguards needed to be prioritised.

"Industry will always push for faster approvals, but it is the role of government to ensure that development is in the best interests of the state and does not damage the environment, climate, or heritage," he said.

"The new resources provided by the McGowan government must support strengthened compliance and enforcement functions, as well as updated environmental standards."

The premier has meanwhile flagged that WA's hot construction market could cause major infrastructure projects to be delayed.

Demand for home builders and other tradies has spiked due to state and federal government stimulus measures, while global materials shortages and natural disaster recovery efforts have further blown out construction wait times.

The building boom was highlighted in a 20-year draft strategy released on Wednesday by Infrastructure WA.

Mr McGowan, whose government is building the major Metronet rail network, said it was likely some projects would be delayed.

"When you have a very, very heated capital and infrastructure market and you put more into that, you increase prices and it means that you create more delays," he told reporters.

"So what we've done, and we will continue to do, is look at what we can space out so we have a longer pipeline of work, we don't put up prices and we don't crowd out tradespeople from projects that are underway, for instance building someone's house.

"It's a delicate balance but we're working through that as we speak."

Australian Associated Press