The COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 passed both houses of parliament on 23 April 2020. The COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (Omnibus Act) seeks to amend legislation to allow for the making of regulations in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In doing so, several Acts will be affected. The Omnibus Act came into operation on 25 April.
Effects on the planning industry
The amendments to existing legislation effectively allows for the planning industry to continue its operations remotely to ensure the continuation of projects. Specifically, the Omnibus Act temporarily amends the following Acts:
Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic)
Local Government Act 2020 (Vic)
Open Courts Act 2013 (Vic)
VCAT Act 1998 (Vic)
Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic)
Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 pushed back
The current proclamation of the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (EPA Act) has been revoked. At the start of March, the remaining provisions of the EPA Act were proclaimed to commence on 1 July 2020. However, the Omnibus Act formally revokes the proclamation made in March and pushes back the default commencement date to 1 December 2021. The Victorian Government has indicated that it intends to proclaim a commencement date of 1 July 2021. This has been done to allow businesses and the industry to instead concentrate its focus on the immediate impacts of coronavirus.
Development and planning taskforce
In addition to the Omnibus Act, the Victorian Government established a dedicated taskforce on 24 April to aid in the continual running of the building and development industry during the coronavirus pandemic.
Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce will run for an initial period of three months and will be overseen by the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne and Treasurer Tim Pallas. The Taskforce will investigate planning and investment opportunities over the short, medium and long-term period. Its goal is to provide real-time recommendations to the Victorian Government on issues that impact the industry and assist in removing barriers that may adversely affect building and development works.
With the aid of Ministerial powers, the Taskforce will initially focus on overseeing the fast-tracking of planning approvals that have been delayed by the coronavirus. The Taskforce will also provide recommendations on long-term projects that are currently in the pipeline, including initiatives to expand social housing options.
Author: Joseph Monaghan
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