On 12 May 2020 the NSW Parliament considered a bill that proposes changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act).
The proposed changes are intended to amend the EPA Act to implement further emergency measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and include:
- extention of the statutory timeframe for when a development consent lapses – the proposed extension is 2 additional years for:
- development consents which become operational between 25 March 2020 to 25 March 2022; and
- other development consents which would otherwise have lapsed.
- extension of existing use rights – from 25 March 2020 to 25 March 2022 an existing use or other lawful use is abandoned if it ceases for a period of 3 years (the use is currently considered abandoned after 12 months).
- the ability for the Minister to issue additional directions to consent authorities such as local councils as to:
- the pooling of contributions and application of those funds progressively to various purposes under a contributions plan or different contributions plans; and
- the time at which a monetary contribution is to be paid.
- more time to seek legal appeals through the Land and Environment Court – the changes generally propose an extra 6 months for a person to appeal against a decision relating to a development consent if:
- the right to the appeal arises from 25 March 2020 to 25 March 2022; or
- the right to appeal had arisen before 25 March 2020 and had not lapsed on that date.
- changes to the powers of investigation officers – modification to enforcement powers to enable investigation officers to use audio links and audio-visual links when requiring answers and recording evidence.
There are also changes proposed to a range of other relevant acts, including the Local Government Act 1919, the Community Land Management Act 1989 and the Crown Land Management Act 2016.
These changes are currently being debated in the Legislative Council and are not yet law.