Hon Speaker, hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers, hon members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I rise on behalf of the ANC and, I hope, on behalf of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs, to recommend to this House the adoption of the amendments in the National Environmental Management Laws Third Amendment Bill.
This Bill, in turn, makes provision for amendments to three pieces of legislation, namely the National Environmental Management Act of 1998, the National Environmental Management: Waste Act of 2008, and the National Environmental Management Amendment Act of 2008, as well as the adoption of a committee Bill introduced by the portfolio committee, the National Water Amendment Bill.
Hon Speaker, one of the longest unresolved policy issues since the advent of our democratic dispensation, and one which has defied a lasting and sustainable solution for almost a decade, is the application of the environmental function in mining areas.
At present, Parliament is seized with various complex processes to provide a sustainable and lasting solution to this matter by bringing about amendments to three pieces of legislation, namely the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill of 2013, the National Environmental Management Laws Third Amendment Bill and the National Water Amendment Bill.
Our portfolio committee and the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources have further - in a most unusual step and in anticipation of the passing of these three Bills - processed potential amendments to at least five regulatory frameworks or sets of regulations underpinned by these three pieces of legislation.
In many respects this very complex process is innovative and unique and, as far as we are aware, it is the first attempt since the advent of democracy to put forward a model to streamline, align and synchronise various crosscutting licensing and authorisation processes amongst government departments.
The purpose of these processes is to ensure that the environmental law can be applied in mining areas in a well-co-ordinated, integrated and synchronised manner, whilst respecting, retaining and giving effect to the environmental protection measures contained in section 24 of the Constitution of 1996, and all other environmental enactments.
When all three Bills and the amendments to the regulations of the five regulatory frameworks are operational, they will give effect to the one environmental system agreement described by our Minister, with the agreed timeframes for the processing of all licences and authorisations in an application to allow for a mining activity being 300 days, and a further 90 days for internal appeal processes directed to the respective Ministers.
These important, complex and unique processes, which have been unfolding in Parliament during the past two years, were specifically recognised by the President in his state of the nation address on 13 February 2014, when he stated, and I quote:
Last year I started engaging business on specific steps that government can take to make it easier to do business in our country. Arising out of that process, we have now streamlined regulatory and licensing approvals for environmental impact assessments, water-use licences and mining licences. Parliament is finalising amendments to the law to give effect to this very positive development, which will cut to under 300 days the time it takes to start a mine from application to finalising approvals.
This presidential quotation summarises the key outcome of the passing of these three Bills. What I shall discuss hereafter contextualises and explains the President's remarks above, as they relate to the parliamentary processes to bring about these positive results.
The two Bills being debated and passed here today are a culmination of a very intense engagement between three government departments, namely the Departments of Mineral Resources, Water and Environmental Affairs, as well as members of the public and the legislature over a long period of time - in fact, since 2006.
The Minister has just outlined in her speech all the processes that her two departments and the Department of Mineral Resources have been involved in to resolve this matter over a period of more than a decade.
I will not repeat those processes in detail here, except for a few references necessary to understand the parliamentary processes giving effect to the agreement reached by these three departments.
Everyone's asleep, because no one's saying "cheers".
HON MEMBERS: Cheers!