Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009
Legislation annual reports 2008-09 (continued)
Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (continued)
3. Review and evaluation
On 31 October 2008 the minister commissioned an independent review of the operation of the EPBC Act, the first since the Act commenced on 16 July 2000. Under section 522A of the EPBC Act, a review is required every 10 years from the Act's commencement.
The review is being undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke with support from a panel of experts.
In particular the review will examine:
- the operation of the EPBC Act generally
- the extent to which the objects of the EPBC Act have been achieved
- the appropriateness of current matters of national environmental significance
- the effectiveness of the biodiversity and wildlife conservation arrangements.
The review will be guided by key Australian Government policy objectives:
- to promote the sustainability of Australia's economic development to enhance individual and community well-being while protecting biological diversity and maintaining essential ecological processes and systems
- to work in partnership with the states and territories within an effective federal arrangement
- to facilitate delivery of Australia's international obligations
- progress Australian Government's deregulation agenda to reduce and simplify the regulatory burden on people, businesses and organisations, while maintaining appropriate and efficient environmental standards
to ensure activities under the Act represent the most appropriate, efficient and effective ways of achieving the Government's outcomes and objectives in accordance with the Expenditure Review Principles.
Community participation in the review is encouraged. Comments were invited on a public discussion paper and interim reports released on 31 October 2008 and 29 June 2009 respectively. The discussion paper attracted 220 submissions from industry, local, state and territory governments, environment groups and individuals. All submissions are publicly available on the EPBC Act review website at www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/submissions/.
During the year the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts also undertook its own inquiry into the operation of the EPBC Act. The committee delivered its findings and recommendations in two reports, published on 18 March 2009 and 30 April 2009. Dr Hawke is considering the committee's report as part of his review.
Under the terms of reference, the final report of the EPBC Act review is due to the minister by 31 October 2009.
The department is committed to implementing the recommendations from the Australian National Audit Office audit of the operation of the Act (Audit Report No.31 2006-07 Performance Audit - The Conservation and Protection of National Threatened Species and Ecological Communities). In May 2009 the department reviewed its progress and found that it is well on track in addressing the report's eight recommendations across four key areas:
1. Listing of marine species
- The report criticised delays in listing nine commercial fish species. Three have now been listed and priority assessments for those remaining are to be completed between September 2009 and 2010.
2. Threatened species listing
- There have been comprehensive reviews and prioritisation of threatened species lists and recovery plans, with significant progress on Species Information Partnerships with states and territories.
- An audit of priority state and territory ecological communities has been completed. An agreed process for listing was endorsed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee. The department has engaged with states and territories to improve communication on threatened species listing.
3. Recovery planning
- Rigorous timetables have been established for completion and review of recovery plans. Active management of priority recovery actions by the department with states and territories has ensured a more integrated and comprehensive approach.
- Thirty new recovery plans were adopted in 2008-09; 259 recovery plans are in preparation covering 347 species and 22 ecological communities.
4. Compliance, auditing and promotion of the EPBC Act
- The implementation of some recommendations requires the department to work closely with state, territory and local governments. This year the department has taken further steps to strengthen working relationships with agencies at all levels of government.
- There has been continuing progress on strategic assessments in Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, with opportunities for developing strategic assessments also being pursued in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.
- Progress with the monitoring and audit program includes the implementation of a strategic audit program.
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