Government to fast-track Snowy 2.0 assessment

One of the tunnel boring machines being built in Germany ahead of its shipment to Australia to work on the Snowy 2.0 scheme.

The Snowy 2.0 project will have its assessment fast-tracked following an announcement from the NSW government. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet last week announced the first 24 projects to undergo a fast-tracked assessment process as part of the NSW Government’s new Planning System Acceleration Program, and Snowy 2.0 is among them.

“By fast-tracking assessments, we will keep people in jobs and keep the construction industry moving as we ride out the Covid-19 pandemic and set our sights on economic recovery,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Snowy Hydro CEO Paul Broad is naturally happy about the decision.

“We welcome the support of the NSW Government which recognises that the Snowy 2.0 project will play an important role in Australia’s post Covid-19 economic revival and the job benefits it will deliver to our local region,” he said.

“It is full steam ahead at Snowy 2.0 as early works proceed and we also have the go-ahead for our segment factory at Polo Flat. We expect that the full environmental assessment of the project will be completed soon so that we can get on with the job of delivering this important project.”

Snowy Valleys Mayor James Hayes is also happy with the news, but has some reservations.

“It’s exciting news,” he said.

“We’ve just got to make sure that jobs can come to this side of the mountains. We’ve also got to get the Brindabella Road upgrade on that list.”

Wagga Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr is optimistic about what the fast-tracking could mean for the region.

“It’s encouraging to see the government prioritising the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project in the new Planning System Acceleration Program,” Dr McGirr said.

“Plans for the long-awaited project are set to undergo a fast-tracked assessment process, alongside 23 other high-priority builds across the state.

“It’s hoped that if these projects are approved in coming weeks, they will keep the construction industry and the economy moving, further boosting local businesses and their communities.

“In Snowy Valleys, that boost would be a welcome one.

“Residents from Adelong, Tumut, Batlow, Talbingo and surrounding areas took a huge hit with the bushfire disaster earlier this year, which followed the ongoing drought before that, and now the Covid-19 crisis.

“Progress on this project would be a timely boost to the construction industry and job market. These benefits would then flow on to the surrounding townships and the businesses in those areas.

“I understand there will still be community consultation, with other appropriate checks and balances set to be maintained, which will be important, especially in regards to environment considerations and the protection of tourism and local community interests.”

To be considered for a fast-tracked assessment, the development application (DA) or rezoning had to already be in the system, deliver a public benefit, demonstrate an ability to create jobs during construction and once complete, be able to commence construction within six months (for a State Significant Development application or State Significant Infrastructure application) or allow a DA to be lodged within six months (for a rezoning).

The criteria was formulated by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in consultation with government agencies and key industry groups. The government says a probity advisor will continue to oversee and report on the fast-tracked process to ensure it is transparent and robust.

Mr Perrottet said additional projects that fit the new criteria would go through the fast-tracked process, with further tranches to be announced.

“We know our planning system will be a key lever in driving investment in NSW as we come out of this crisis,” he said.

“NSW already has the country’s biggest infrastructure program and we need to do what we can now to make sure that continues.”