Posted on March 22, 2022 by Anzer Khan and Carlo Zoppo

COVID-19 and Other Legislation Amendment (Regulatory Reforms) Bill 2022

UPDATE: this post was updated on 30 March 2022 to reflect the Bill’s assent on 24 March 2022.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NSW Government implemented a number of regulatory measures on a temporary basis. On 15 February 2022, the COVID-19 and Other Legislation Amendment (Regulatory Reforms) Bill 2022 (Bill) was introduced into the NSW Parliament to make the temporary measures permanent. The Bill was passed by Parliament on 22 March 2022 and assented to on 24 March 2022. The name of the Act that the Bill introduces is the COVID-19 and Other Legislation Amendment (Regulatory Reforms) Act 2022 (Act).

This post will provide an overview of some important changes that the Act introduces.

The Act makes permanent powers that:

  1. as at 24 March 2022, enable officers and inspectors to conduct interviews and questioning remotely by audio link or audio visual link under the following Acts:
    1. Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (omitting s 12.19(9));
    2. Crown Land Management Act 2016 (omitting s 10.23(9));
    3. Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (omitting s 203(10));
    4. Water Management Act 2000 (omitting s 338B(9));
    5. Fisheries Management Act 1994 (omitting s 256(6)); and
    6. Mining Act 1992 (omitting s 248L(9)).
  2. as at 1 April 2022, allow planning panels and the Independent Planning Commission to hold public hearings and meetings online or in person under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and
  3. as at 24 March 2022, preserve the rights of eligible tenants accrued during the prescribed period under the Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2022 and allow savings and transitional regulations to be made in relation to any future commercial leasing protections implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Act does not extend the powers that are currently available for Investigation Officers to conduct interviews by audio visual link under  s 9.23 of the  Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act) beyond 31 March 2022. It is not entirely clear why this simple amendment was not made to continue the benefits available to Investigation officers under the EPA Act.

Some of the repealed legislation under the Act:

The Act seeks to omit ss 10.17 and 10.18 of the EPA Act on 1 April 2022.

Section 10.17 of the EPA Act permits the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to make an order authorising the carrying out of development that is necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of members of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, without the need for any approval under the EPA Act or consent from any person.

Section 10.18 of the EPA Act provides that a document required under the EPA Act or the regulations to be made available for inspection at a physical location, such as an office, can be satisfied if the document is instead made available on the NSW planning portal or any other website approved by the Planning Secretary.

The changes assist most local and state government enforcement officers to carry out their roles and functions by continuing powers that allow interviews to take place by AVL.  One would have thought that the powers under s9.23 of the EPA Act allowing AVL interviews would also have been continued however that is not the case under the Act.

If you have any questions in relation to this blog, please contact Carlo Zoppo on 8235 9705 or Anzer Khan on 8235 9717.