Community participation is an essential part of the assessment of all State significant projects and is integral to improving the design of projects, facilitating ecologically sustainable development, informing decision-making and building confidence in the planning system.
The department seeks to encourage community participation in the assessment of State significant projects by:
- providing information to the community on the State significant assessment process, State significant projects, the relevant policy context for these projects and the policies and guidelines that will be taken into consideration during decision-making,
- publishing guidance to encourage proponents to involve the in the development, assessment and implementation of State significant projects,
- using its statutory powers to require proponents to undertake effective community engagement,
- undertaking its own community engagement on projects by exhibiting applications, holding community information sessions and carrying out targeted engagement (site visits, meetings, workshops) with members of the community on matters arising out the detailed assessment of the impacts of projects,
- integrating community into its assessment of the merits of projects and
- giving the community feedback on the reasons for decisions and how its views were taken into consideration in decision-making.
All state significant projects are exhibited for at least 28 days, and the community is invited to have a say on the merits of these projects.
Following exhibition, the department will publish all submissions online and ask the proponent to respond to the issues raised in submissions.
In some cases, the minister may also ask the Independent Planning Commission to hold a public hearing into the carrying out of a state significant project. This purpose of this hearing is to increase the public scrutiny of these projects, obtain independent advice on complex technical matters and give the community another opportunity to have another say on these projects.
The Independent Planning Commission has detailed guidelines and procedures for conducting these hearings.
After receiving the proponent’s response to submissions, the department will complete its detailed assessment of the merits of the state significant project and prepare an assessment report. This involves integrating the findings of any community engagement into the technical assessment of the impacts of the project.
Once complete, the department will refer its assessment report to the Minister for Planning or Independent Planning Commission for a final decision.
Under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979, these decision-makers are required to evaluate the merits of projects against the triple bottom line and consider community views on these projects.
Following determination, the Department will publish the decision online and give public notice of the reasons for the decision and how community views were taken into consideration during decision-making.