Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (16:39): I rise to speak in support of the Planning and Environment Amendment Bill 2021 from Mr Hayes. The Planning and Environment Act 1987 has been for a long time weighted towards planning and development, with little regard to the environmental impacts of a project. It has focused on the benefits of social and economic reasons rather than the environmental costs. This bill puts some priority back on making sure that the environment is one of the factors to consider when applications are submitted. The first part aims to enhance the act by strengthening the objectives to protect the environment. This may include consideration of native species on the site, protection of flora and fauna, native grasslands and tree canopies et cetera. It introduces the requirement for an environmental impact statement, which strengthens the requirements for decision-makers to focus on the environment. It will assist authorities to make informed decisions about whether a project has a negative, neutral or positive environmental impact.
It will not add red tape, as proposed by some, as for the majority of smaller projects and the ones that have no environmental impact the applicant can simply state that to address this. I am told there has been broad support from councils across Victoria, resident and community groups, environmental groups and Parks Victoria.
Currently there is no guiding force across any of the departments or state government agencies that puts the environment first. This would be a great step towards it. I certainly will be supporting Mr Hayes on his bill here, and that is all I have to say.