Victoria has fallen behind other states and overseas jurisdictions and should do more to develop its mineral resources and encourage heavy-industry construction and exploration, an inquiry has found.
In a final report now tabled in Parliament, the Victorian Parliament’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee (EDIC) says Victoria’s share of national mineral exploration spending has fallen to just two per cent at a time when the rest of Australia is deriving enormous benefits from the mining boom.
“A successful mining industry laid the foundations for making Victoria the great state it is today,” committee chair and MP for Hastings Neale Burgess says. “While the resources sector is again creating employment and building wealth for communities throughout Australia and around the world, Victorians have been missing out.”
The committee says it received ‘overwhelming’ evidence that regulation of exploration and mining in Victoria is overly complex, has become difficult to navigate and requires simplification.
In total, the EDIC’s report makes 25 recommendations relating to areas such as the industry’s legislative and regulatory framework, finance and taxation arrangements, geoscientific research and education land management and environmental protection.
Of these, key recommendations include making more crown land available for exploration, the introduction of time limits for project approval times and a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach to regulation.
The Committee also wants better processes to ensure that communities are consulted about potential coal-seam-gas (CSG) projects in their region.
Burgess says minerals exploration is crucial for Victoria and that new mining projects would help Victoria’s economy to diversify and create new, vibrant industries in regional areas.
While environmentalists remain concerned about the expansion of mining, and especially about using more public land for resource exploration, many support the need to clean up laws in this area.
“As they stand, Victoria’s mining laws are broken,” says Michael Power, law reform lawyer at the Environment Defenders Office. “They don’t protect the environment or regional communities. That must change.”
Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham agrees, and says the inquiry is a key test into whether the Baillieu Government has a consistent approach to community input when it comes to planning and approvals of new developments.
“Currently a single landowner can hold a wind farm developer to ransom while a whole town has no formal mechanism for opposing a new coal mine,” he says.