Development proposals in Western Australia which are worth more than $20 million in the metropolitan region or $5 million in regional areas will receive a streamlined approval process over the next eighteen months as the government in that state seeks to ramp up construction in response to COVID-19.

The Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020 has been passed with amendments and is now law.

The new law enables project owners for state significant developments to have their applications assessed by the Western Australian Planning Commission under a new flexible and streamlined assessment pathway.

A project will have state significance where its value exceeds $20 million in the metropolitan area or $5 million in regional areas – thresholds which have been reduced from an original amount of $30 million under amendments negotiated with minor parties.

The new measure is temporary and will be in place for only eighteen months as the state tries to reboot its economy and move projects into construction.

The changes will also introduce an automatic two-year extension for all subdivision applications which have either been submitted but not yet approved or approved and not yet lapsed before the State of emergency came into effect on 16 March 2020.

The changes are part of a two-stage process through which the government aims to implement urgent changes to help boost construction in response to COVID and to implement more comprehensive reform to improve the planning system.

The first stage is being addressed through aforementioned amendments; the latter will be addressed through other legislation expected shortly.

The changes will be accompanied by amendments to planning regulations.

The government says more than 25 proposed amendments to the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015 have been identified which relate to local planning frameworks – including planning schemes and policies – structure and precinct planning and development applications processes and consultation.

It says many of these form part of the government’s planned reform and follow three years of consultation.

To help support the Commission with its temporary decision making role, a new team is being established within the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.

McGowan said the changes would facilitate immediate job creation whilst improving the planning system.

“These reforms will cut red tape, create local jobs and help drive economic activity following COVID-19,” he said.

“By introducing new laws to simplify the planning system Western Australians will be able to better navigate the system. This will help get more people onto new developments and into jobs that help build and benefit local communities.

“Now the legislation has been passed, a new development application process will be immediately introduced to support significant, job-creating projects for the next 18 months to provide immediate support for Western Australia’s economic recovery.”