On 29 October 2019, the Australian government commenced a ten-yearly review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) – the centrepiece of our national environmental legislation.
Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, when announcing the review emphasised the government’s goal was to deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environment organisations.
How will this EPBC Act review impact my project?
Lawrence Smith, Niche’s NSW regional manager responded by saying; “The last independent review was undertaken in 2009. Dr Allan Hawke and the expert panel made 71 recommendations for change. Many of which, for a variety of reasons were never implemented.”
“The objective of this 2019 review, above all else should be to ensure that Australia’s environmental law achieves the right balance between protecting our environment and natural places and supporting the needs of our communities, businesses and all Australians.”
Lawrence was further quoted; “I am confident that our team at Niche in NSW and QLD will be across the outcomes of the review including any revision adopted, in order that we can quickly and accurately interpret all potential impacts and how they may affect our client’s projects.”
What is protected under the EPBC Act?
Under the EPBC Act, any development that is likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance requires approval from the Minister for the Environment. Matters of national environmental significance that are protected under the Act include:
- world heritage properties
- national heritage places
- wetlands of international importance (listed under the Ramsar Convention)
- listed threatened species and ecological communities
- migratory species protected under international agreements
- Commonwealth marine areas
- the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
- nuclear actions (including uranium mines)
- a water resource, in relation to coal seam gas development and large coal mining development
What happens next?
Over the next 12 months a panel of experts, led by Professor Graeme Samuel AC, will look at how the EPBC Act has been operating and review to what extent its objectives have been achieved. The panel will then provide a report to the Minister for the Environment and recommend any changes needed for Australia to support ecologically sustainable development into the future.
Interested stakeholders – including industry, Indigenous Australians and environmental groups – will be consulted, with a discussion paper expected to be released in coming weeks.