As part of an Environment Effects Statement (EES), the Minister for Planning may appoint an inquiry to evaluate the effects of the project, taking into account the EES studies and any submissions received during the public exhibition period.
In the case of the Fingerboards Project EES, the Minister has stipulated that an inquiry should take place. The inquiry will take place after the public exhibition period, which closes at 5 pm on 29 October 2020.
The inquiry is independently managed by Planning Panels Victoria. Submissions will be considered by an Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) and the Minister for Planning through the EES assessment process.
The Minister for Planning will issue terms of reference to the IAC to specify the scope of the inquiry. The IAC will consider the EES, the draft Planning Scheme Amendment, the draft Work Plan, and all public submissions.
The inquiry will consist of the following:
- Directions Hearing - scheduled on 14 December 2020
- formal Panel Hearing - scheduled on 1 February 2021
The purpose of the Directions Hearing is to determine from the public submissions, which are the most important issues that the formal panel hearing should consider.
The purpose of the formal panel hearing is to provide an opportunity for the proponent and submitters to present to the panel and to present expert witnesses in relation to the EES. The panel has the opportunity to question the proponent, submitters and expert witnesses to assess the potential impacts of the project.
Members for individual panels are usually selected from a list of panel members based on:
- the experience or expertise required by the subject matter of the panel
- the likely length of the panel hearing
- the availability of panel members
Under normal circumstances, the panel hearing would be held at a suitable venue within the region of the proposed project (most likely in Bairnsdale) and the proponent, expert witnesses and submitters could attend the hearing in person. However, depending on ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the hearing may be held via remote conferencing.
The panel prepares its report to the planning authority once the hearing is completed. It is expected that the panel report will be lodged within forty (40) business days from the completion of the hearing.
The Minister for Planning will use this report as part of his assessment of the Fingerboards Project EES.