Federal Government announces environmental law reform
The Federal Government has announced the first major reform to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EBPC) Act since its creation in 1999. The reform forms the Federal Government’s response to the independent review of the Act by Allan Hawke AC.
The reforms will be aimed at better outlining environmental protection focusing on whole regions and ecosystems as well as including faster environmental assessments.
The reforms will also outline a national approach to the environmental impact assessments that will remove duplication and aim to reduce red tape and include better upfront guidance on legislation requirements.
The environmental reforms include:
- A more proactive approach to protecting Australia’s environment through more strategic assessments and regional environmental plans.
- Identifying and protecting ecosystems of national significance under the EPBC Act through regional environment plans, strategic assessments or conservation agreements to protect the most significant and healthy ecosystems before they are threatened or degraded.
- A more co-operative approach to developing environmental standards by establishing a new National Centre for Cooperation on Environment and Development that will bring together industry, scientists, non-government organisations and governments to work together on environmental standards, guidelines and procedures. Expressions of interest for the new centre open today.
- A more streamlined assessment process to cut red tape for business and improve timeframes for decision making, including an option for decisions on proposals within 35 business days, if all required information is provided.
- New national standards for accrediting environmental impact assessments and approvals to better align Commonwealth and state systems.
- A new Government Biodiversity Policy for consultation to further protect ecosystems across the continent and guide future biodiversity planning and programs with a draft policy released for consultation today.
- Establishing a single national list of threatened species and ecological communities to reduce inconsistencies between jurisdictions.
- Better regulation of international trade in wildlife by streamlining permits.
- More transparent information to inform communities about environmental assessments, including making it standard practice to publish the Environment Department’s recommendation reports.
- Better processes for heritage listing through a more transparent listing processes based on a single assessment list.
- Development of an environmental offsets policy to better explain to proponents and the community how offsets are assessed and what would be acceptable under specific proposals. A draft policy has been released today for consultation with industry and communities.
- Public consultation on possible introduction of cost recovery to ensure adequate resourcing for administration of the EPBC Act, with a release a cost recovery paper which will outline options for cost recovery of specific activities under the EPBC Act.
The environmental reforms and proposed changes to the EPBC Act follow an independent review commissioned by the Government and led Mr Hawke which provided 71 recommendations, 56 which have been agreed fully or in part and 15 which have not been accepted.
For more information on national environmental law reforms and the Government’s full response to the review of the EPBC Act 1999 by Mr Hawke, go to www.environment.gov.au/epbc/reform.