Tag Archives: approvals

Liberals to fast track mining approvals

Updated February 22, 2013 16:38:28

The WA Liberal party will spend $20-million to help fast track mining approvals if it is re-elected to govern in a fortnight.

The party plans to create a database of environmental and heritage information, which mining companies will be able to access online.

It will also expand an approvals tracking scheme it introduced during its current term of government that allows proponents to track the progress of their approval, regardless of which government department is doing the evaluation.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore says the two policies will make it easier for mining companies to get their approvals processed.
“They’ll be able to see what work’s been done in the past,” he said.

“[They] can access that, and use it, and save having to repeat a lot of the approvals processes that they would have had to do if that information was not available.”

The State’s peak mining lobby has welcomed the pledge.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy says both policies will encourage future growth and investment across the sector.

Topics: mining-industry, mining-environmental-issues, elections, liberals, wa, perth-6000

First posted February 22, 2013 16:24:23

Claims former Qld government put pressure on gas approvals

An industry group has dismissed claims two to Queensland’s largest resources projects were approved because of pressure by the former Bligh Labor government.

The Courier Mail newspaper says a Right to Information investigation has revealed the Bligh government pressured public servants to approve the coal seam gas (CSG) projects, worth around $34 billion.

However, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) spokesman Rick Wilkinson says while some individuals in government may have had concerns, the environmental reviews were thorough.

“The track record of the industry is very, very good,” he said.

“There’s 18,000 people working under it – we’ve been doing it for 16 years.

“There are no environmental disasters in Queensland.”

He says all of the natural gas in Queensland is now coming from coal seam gas.

“I’ve been involved in CSG to LNG since its inception in Queensland,” he said.

“I got my daughter through high school faster than I got an environmental approval, so it hasn’t in my view been a dash for gas.

“In fact it’s taken a minimum of three-and-a-half-years to just write it, prepare it and have it analysed.”

But anti-coal seam gas campaigner Drew Hutton says the documents obtained are damning and show the environmental impact process was flawed.

“There were no cumulative assessments in the [environmental impact statements] from both Santos and British Gas for the water that was extracted – for the salt, for vegetation and land clearing, for the greenhouse gases that they would produce and for site specific impacts,” he said.

Topics: public-sector, activism-and-lobbying, oil-and-gas, alp, liberal-national-party-queensland, mining-rural, mining-environmental-issues, mining-industry, brisbane-4000, toowoomba-4350, bundaberg-4670

First posted February 11, 2013 11:29:22

Wilderness Society challenges gas hub approvals

The Supreme Court has begun hearing a challenge by the Wilderness Society and a traditional landowner to the environmental approvals granted for the $30 billion Kimberley gas hub.

The society, together with traditional landowner Richard Hunter, launched the legal action against the Environmental Protection Authority and the Environment Minister Bill Marmion.

They are applying to have the court overturn an EPA report and subsequent ministerial decisions to approve the project, alleging apparent bias and failure to follow procedure.

Wilderness Society spokesman Peter Robertson says the court action was filed after the EPA’s chairman Paul Vogel made the sole decision last July to approve the gas hub because all other board members had a perceived conflict of interest.

“The outcome that we’re hoping for is that the Supreme Court will agree with us that the way that the EPA handled this fiasco was unlawful,” he said.

“And, therefore any so-called approvals that arise from this should be overturned – that’s what we’re seeking.”

The society says it hopes its Supreme Court challenge will result in a review of the environmental approvals of the $30 billion Kimberley gas hub.

The court heard this morning that Woodside Petroleum has applied to join the case affecting its proposed gas processing facility at the hub, north of Broome.

Woodside is arguing its legal rights are affected.

Mr Robertson says a sole person should not have made the EPA decision.

“We’re also challenging the fact that once those conflicts of interest had been not only declared but acknowledged, instead of the Minister and the EPA following what we and others recommended which was that a separate panel of people be empanelled to carry out this assessment,” he said.

“Instead of that, our views and other people’s views were ignored and they went ahead and instead instead of having a minimum of three EPA board members they reduced it to just one member of the five member EPA board making the final decision.

“That is just a gross misuse of decision making processes of the EPA.”

Mr Robertson says the legal challenge is expensive but feels it is his duty.

“[It's about] restoring some confidence and faith in the way that the EPA operates and the way it conducts it’s environmental assessments,” he said.

“If groups like us don’t do things like this then they, the Government, will end up getting away with very shonky decision making processes and that can’t be allowed to happen.”

“When you see an independent statutory body being reduced to nothing more than basically a political facilitation agency for the government, then that’s a very very sad state of affairs for Western Australia and for our environment and future generations.

“And, the Wilderness Society and the traditional owners are obviously very determined to make that those decision making processes aren’t allowed to stand.”

The EPA has declined to comment.

Woodside and the Minister have been contacted for comment.

A directions hearing on the matter will be heard on March 22.

Topics: courts-and-trials, environmental-management, oil-and-gas, broome-6725

First posted February 12, 2013 12:34:02

Australia home loan approvals slide

 There had been hopes that lower borrowing costs may attract more buyers to the property market Australian home-loan approvals are down for a third month despite the central bank cutting its main interest rates.

Approvals fell 1.5% in December from November, the statistical bureau said.

Australia’s central bank cut interest rates four times in 2012 in an attempt to boost investment and growth in non-mining sectors such as construction.

However, analysts said many mortgage lenders had not passed on the lower borrowing costs, while consumers feared that rates may climb again.

“First-home buyers need to know that rates are going to stay down for them to have the confidence to jump into the market,” said Brian Redican, a senior economist at Macquarie.

Passing on benefits

In an effort to offset slower global growth and stimulate the domestic economy, Australia’s central bank lowered its key interest rate from 4.25% at the start of last year to 3% in December.

However, mortgage costs have taken longer to come down.

According to its website, ANZ Bank’s variable interest rates range between 5.7% per annum and 6.4%. Its fixed rate for a five-year mortgage is 5.99% per annum.

Meanwhile, Westpac’s variable rate is around 5.86% per annum, while its fixed rates are also above 5%.

Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie’s rates are also above 5% per annum.

Analysts said that the central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), needed to do more to ensure that its rate cuts were fully passed on the home buyers.

“The banks are not going to cut variable rates on their own. Only the RBA can do all that,” Westpac’s Brian Redican said.

Building approvals post surprise slide

Building approvals ended 2012 with a solid fall that surprised economists who were generally expecting a modest rise.

Official figures from the Bureau of Statistics show the number of dwellings approved for construction fell 4.4 per cent in December, more than offsetting a 3.4 per cent rise the previous month.

More worryingly for analysts, the fall was split fairly evenly between a 3.3 per cent decline in the more stable detached house figures, and a 5.4 per cent slide in the typically volatile non-house dwellings category (mainly apartments).

However, Westpac’s economics team says the numbers need to be interpreted with caution, because the summer period generally sees large revisions to the initial figures, and because the fall was almost exclusively centred in Victoria, which had a 12.7 per cent slide in house approvals.

“On the one hand there may have been a significant policy-induced ‘hole’ in approvals in the month,” the bank’s economists wrote in a note.

“The Victorian state government changed its incentives for first home buyers in 2012 from a grant of up to $13,000 to significant stamp duty concessions (both only available on properties up to $600,000).

“However, the transition period was not smooth with the grant phasing out at the end of June and stamp duty concessions coming into effect in January. The gap may have encouraged many to delay building, particularly late in the year.”

The bank says that explanation is undermined somewhat by separate figures showing that Victorian first home buyer activity held up last year, despite the policy changes.

Queensland had the best rise in December dwelling approvals, with a 7.9 per cent rise overall.

Over 2012, private sector house approvals were down 3.8 per cent and non-house approvals surged 31.7 per cent, reflecting a trend towards high density living.

Master Builders Australia’s chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch says the construction sector is hoping lower rates will boost demand for new homes, but that more rate cuts may be needed.

“The industry is looking to last year’s rate cuts to bolster new home buyers’ interests in the coming months and provide a much needed boost to the industry,” he noted in response to the ABS figures.

“The December building approvals figures should give the Reserve Bank of Australia cause to closely look at another rate cut at the board meeting tomorrow.”

Topics: building-and-construction, business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, housing-industry, australia, vic

First posted February 04, 2013 12:37:10

Mortgage approvals pick up again

Houses in the snow The housing market is now starting to thaw, the figures suggest The number of mortgages agreed by lenders for home buyers has risen for the fifth month in a row, figures from the Bank of England show.

In December, 55,785 mortgages were approved for home buyers, the most since January 2012 and, before that, the highest since December 2009.

The figures suggest that house sales will rise in the coming months.

Lenders have attributed this revival to the government’s Funding for Lending scheme (FLS).

On Tuesday, the Land Registry for England and Wales reported that house prices in England and Wales had risen by 1.7% in 2012.

Although that was the fastest rate for more than two years, the average rise was driven by price increases in London.

FLS is a scheme run by the Bank of England which, since last August, has been offering cheap funds to banks and building societies, on condition they then lend the money to personal and business customers.

The aim has been to stop overall bank lending falling any further, as part of the authorities’ strategy to stop the economy falling even deeper into recession.

The increased funding has already translated into higher sales.

Earlier this month figures from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) showed that house sales in the UK rose by 5% last year.

There were 932,000 completed sales in 2012, up from 885,000 the previous year, and the highest since 2007.

At the start of January the Bank of England surveyed lenders and found that lending, which had risen in the last three months of 2012, was also expected to rise “significantly” in the first three months of this year.

Mutual lenders, such as building societies, were responsible for an increased share of new mortgage lending last year.

The Building Societies Association (BSA) said new lending by its members rose by 30% in 2012.

This gave them a 22% share of the total new lending market, up from 17% in 2011.

“Mutual lenders are likely to continue to play a prominent role in the mortgage market in 2013, helped in part by the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme,” said Adrian Coles, director-general of the BSA.

“Well over half of the 35 firms signed up to the scheme in December are mutuals. The full potential of the scheme and its benefits to homebuyers will be demonstrated as the year progresses.”

Building approvals post modest rise

Updated January 10, 2013 15:42:02

The number of new dwellings approved rose 2.9 per cent in November, offsetting a fall the month before.

The modest gain was driven by a 10.1 per cent rise in the volatile non-house sector (which mainly covers apartments, and is skewed month-to-month by the approval of large developments).

The rise in the Bureau of Statistics figures for apartment approvals in November follows a 15 per cent fall in October.

Approvals for new detached homes eased 0.3 per cent, following up a 0.2 per cent decline the previous month.

Total dwelling approvals are up 13.2 per cent over the year to November, with apartment approvals increasing 36.4 per cent and private sector houses up 0.5 per cent.

UBS economists Scott Haslem and George Tharenou say the figures demonstrate a moderate housing recovery is underway in Australia.

“Overall, residential building approvals are trending up, stimulated by lower interest rates (noting this November data predates the RBA’s 25 basis point rate cut in December),” they wrote in a note on the data.

“Coupled with the ongoing momentum suggested by the lift in construction lending and ‘time to buy a dwelling’ [surveys of consumers], this is consistent with our forecast of a recovery in dwelling commencements (from 138,000 in 2012) to 150,000 in 2013 and 2014.

“Indeed, we expect a rebound in housing activity to support the rebalancing of [economic] growth in 2013.”

The Commonwealth Bank’s chief economist Michael Blythe says housing is very important to the domestic economy because of the flow-on spending it generates.

“We know from the work that the ABS, for example, have done that basically every dollar that you spend on residential construction you generate $1.31 of spending somewhere else in the economy,” he said.

“You build a new house and you’ve got to fill it up with big screen TVs and the like, so if you can get that bit moving then it will go at least part of the way to filling in that emerging growth pothole [left by the slowdown in mining investment].”

However, industry groups maintain a more cautious view of the improving housing figures, saying more cuts are needed to ensure the tentative recovery continues.

The Master Builders Australia’s chief economist Peter Jones says the increase in dwelling approvals is not broadly based.

“November’s headline increase in approvals appears to be narrowly based, reliant on an unsustainable spike in inner Melbourne units rather than any broad-based upswing,” he noted.

“The danger is that the recovery could run out of steam as the impact of previous interest rate cuts appear to have failed in lifting new homebuyer confidence and underpinning a sustained housing recovery.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, housing-industry, building-and-construction, money-and-monetary-policy, australia

First posted January 10, 2013 13:04:47

Figures show mining approvals take two years

Posted December 11, 2012 10:19:07

The Department of Mines has released figures showing it takes an average of just over two years for a new mining project in Western Australia to reach final approval.

The average was reached after assessing about 1,100 mining proposals over the past four years.

The figure has been released to counter industry criticism that approval timelines have blown out to five years, making WA a less competitive place to develop projects.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy welcomes the progress that has been made.

The Wilderness Society’s Peter Robertson says approval times have been reduced by cutting corners.

“The recent furore over fracking for example demonstrates that the Department of Mines and the Minister for Mines are in a huge rush to approve all kinds of mining projects, both onshore and offshore, in all parts of WA without adequate safeguards, without adequate assessments,” he said.

He says more should be done to protect the environment.

“WA should uphold the strictest standards because our environment is already under enormous pressure,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be cutting corners and we shouldn’t be fast-tracking approvals because we’ve already done so much damage and we’ve learnt very little from it.”

Topics: mining-industry, broome-6725, karratha-6714, perth-6000, kalgoorlie-6430, geraldton-6530, albany-6330

Developers promised quick approvals

Updated November 27, 2012 10:42:29

A new state-wide code could give developers a building permit within a week.

The State Government wants feedback on the Multi-Residential Code aimed at giving permits within seven days if a developer has met requirements to build a villa-style unit or town house.

Planning Minister Bryan Green says the streamlined code will speed up the process for developers.

“If they meet all of the necessary requirements of the code, the setbacks, the distribution within the space and various other things then it’s incumbent on the Council to provide a permit.” he said.

“Just as we’ve done with the multi residential code, once they’ve complied then the permit should be issued within seven days.”

Michael Kerschbaum from the Master Builders Association says the changes will give developers confidence.

“So the developer has a lot more certainty going forward that if they do all the right thing and comply with all the requirements, including environmental requirements that they’ll in fact have every chance of going through that permitted pathway,” he said.

“And if they can’t meet one of the requirements, it does trigger a discretionary pathway anyway so they go through the normal process.”

Topics: building-and-construction, tas

First posted November 27, 2012 06:23:01

Building approvals rise for second straight month

Posted October 31, 2012 12:08:00

Official figures show building approvals for homes have risen for the second straight month, in a sign the housing market may be picking up.

The Bureau of Statistics dwelling approvals figures for September show a 7.8 per cent rise to 13,388.

That rise was driven primarily by a 17.9 per cent surge in apartment approvals, which tend to be volatile month-to-month, while the more stable detached housing approvals number was up 1.2 per cent.

Compared to September last year, private sector house approvals are down 1.8 per cent, while multi-unit approvals are up 41.6 per cent.

The best monthly improvement in dwelling approvals was recorded in New South Wales (up 22.8 per cent), with Victoria (5.2 per cent) and Queensland (2.6 per cent) posting more modest growth.

Tasmania’s economic woes continue with a 9.6 per cent fall in dwelling approvals, while Western Australia (-2.4 per cent) and South Australia (-1.3 per cent) had more modest seasonally adjusted declines.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, building-and-construction, housing-industry, money-and-monetary-policy, australia

Building approvals ‘patchy’ throughout Queensland

Updated November 09, 2012 11:08:57

The Queensland Housing Industry Association (HIA) says the downturn in the sector cannot get any worse, with figures showing building approvals dropped 19 per cent in Brisbane over the last 12 months.

However, building activity increased 53 per cent in Toowoomba on the state’s Darling Downs in the same period.

HIA state executive director Warwick Temby says new figures show the construction sector is reflecting Queensland’s two-speed economy.

“It shows the housing industry’s probably at the bottom of the trough across Queensland, but the picture’s very patchy,” he said.

“Anywhere that’s anywhere near a resources area seems to be doing pretty well.

“Places that aren’t near resources areas are struggling.”

Mr Temby says builders are more optimistic about the future.

“We’re certainly optimistic that a combination of lower interest rates and 15,000 first home buyer grant that the Government introduced in the budget will help turn things around in 2013,” he said.

Topics: activism-and-lobbying, housing, building-and-construction, housing-industry, community-development, mining-rural, regional, regional-development, brisbane-4000, bundaberg-4670, cairns-4870, gladstone-4680, longreach-4730, maroochydore-4558, mount-isa-4825, rockhampton-4700, southport-4215, toowoomba-4350, townsville-4810

First posted November 09, 2012 10:50:14

New dwelling approvals continue to fall in Qld

Updated October 18, 2012 08:27:30

The Master Builders Association of Queensland (MBAQ) says a lack of consumer confidence is to blame for a continued drop in new dwelling approvals in the state’s south-east.

The number of new home and unit approvals in Brisbane fell nearly 40 per cent in the year to August.

They also fell by 32 per cent on the Sunshine Coast and about 28 per cent on the Gold Coast.

But approvals in Mackay in the state’s north rose by 220 per cent and 130 per cent on the Darling Downs and south-west Queensland.

MBAQ spokesman Paul Bidwell says the statistics are surprising but numbers should pick up with the flow on of State Government grants for new homes.

“Frankly we’re surprised at how bad it is,” he said.

“We thought that 2010-11 was going to be the very bad year – that was a 10-year low in October of 2011, but 2011-12 proved to be worse, which we’re staggered by, but we’re confident things will improve.”

Mr Bidwell says he expects numbers in Brisbane to rise with new State Government grants and lower interest rates.

“We think housing activity in Brisbane will improve dramatically this financial year on the back of population growth, reasonably strong employment, and the fact that low interest rates are at this point projected to go even lower,” he said.

“You overlay that with the State Government’s first home owner’s construction grants – things should pick up in the next few months.”

Topics: activism-and-lobbying, housing, housing-industry, building-and-construction, economic-trends, brisbane-4000, southport-4215, toowoomba-4350, mackay-4740, maroochydore-4558

First posted October 18, 2012 08:17:44