Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2004-05

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005
ISSN 1441 9335

Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)

Assessments and approvals

The Department of the Environment and Heritage manages referral, assessment and approval processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The department also manages assessment and approval processes under other federal laws, particularly the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 and the Sea Installations Act 1987.

Main responsibilities relevant to this output

Approvals and Wildlife Division

Objectives

Main results

Environmental assessments and approvals

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 establishes procedures for determining which actions require approval under the Act, and the related environmental assessment and approvals processes. Approvals are required for actions that are likely to have a significant impact on those matters of national environmental significance protected under Part 3 of the Act. Approval is also required for actions of the Australian Government and actions involving Commonwealth land that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment.

Since the commencement of the Act in July 2000 more than 1 000 matters of national environmental significance (including aspects of the environment for actions of the Australian Government or actions involving Commonwealth land) have been protected through the referrals, assessments and approvals process, with 193 of these matters being protected in 2004–05. The matters of national environmental significance protected include: world heritage properties; Ramsar wetlands of international importance; threatened species and ecological communities; migratory species; and the Commonwealth marine environment.

Timeframes for all decision-making in the referral, assessment and approval process are fully specified in the Act. The chart (below) shows the percentage of such decisions that have been made within statutory timeframes since the commencement of the Act in July 2000.

Timeliness of environmental impact decisions (2000–present)

Percentage made within statutory timeframes in 2004–05 = 83%

Timeliness of environmental impact decisions (2000-present)

Statutory timeframes apply to referral, assessment and approval decisions and administrative actions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The relevant provisions of the Act commenced on 16 July 2000.

While the extent to which statutory timeframes are met for decision-making in the referral, assessment and approval process remains high overall, there was a slight decrease in the number of decisions made within statutory timeframes in 2004–05. This follows the trend of 2003–04, and is indicative of the increasing number of complex and sensitive proposed actions, and the increasing work resulting from actions referred in previous years now entering the approvals phase.

A full report on the department’s environmental assessment and approvals activities can be found in the detailed report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 included in the second volume of this set of annual reports. The detailed report also includes information on:

Project work is partly funded through the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust. During 2004–05 $1.8 million was spent from the Natural Heritage Trust on environmental assessment and approval related projects—this figure also includes funding for projects related to assessments under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, discussed below.

See also: courts and tribunals.

Sea dumping and sea installations regulation

The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 was enacted to fulfil Australia’s international responsibilities under the London Convention of 1972 and has been amended to implement the 1996 Protocol to the London Convention, which Australia ratified in 2001. The Act regulates the deliberate loading and dumping of wastes and other matter at sea and provides the basis for the assessment, permitting and ongoing management of such actions.

With the expansion of a number of ports across Australia there was an increase in applications for the disposal of dredged material in 2004–05. Reviews of applications for offshore disposal of spoil from capital or maintenance dredging involve detailed assessments under the National Ocean Disposal Guidelines for Dredged Material.

An increase in permits granted under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 for artificial reef placement during 2004–05 reflected growing interest in increasing tourism by providing recreational diving opportunities. The majority of artificial reef placements were vessels.

The Sea Installations Act 1987 regulates the construction and operation of sea installations to:

The majority of sea installations in Australia are within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In 2004–05 the department issued one permit for a sea installation under the Act.

Results for performance indicators
Performance indicator 2004—05 results
Statutory administration
Number of times matters of national environmental significance have been protected 193 matters protected under Part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 were afforded protection through the referral, assessment and approval process in 2004–05
Extent to which statutory timeframes are met under legislation High—despite a slight decrease in the percentage of decisions made within statutory timeframes, due to the increasing complexity of proposals
Stakeholders are satisfied that the administration of assessment and approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is fair and in accordance with statutory provisions Stakeholder feedback indicates a high level of satisfaction with the administration of assessment and approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Stakeholder awareness
Information and education products distributed to stakeholders (measured by web site hits, information material distributed, etc) Stakeholder awareness was enhanced during the year through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 web site, the distribution of information products, and training and information sessions held throughout the country

Average of 9 927 user sessions per month to the assessments and approvals-related part of the department’s web site

Legislation

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981
Sea Installations Act 1987
Sea Installations Levy Act 1987

Resources
Element of pricing Budget prices
$’000
Actual expenses
$’000
Departmental outputs
Output 1.4: Environmental assessments and approvals 2 405 13 917
Prices are the estimated full-year revenues for departmental outputs and full-year expenses for administered items that are shown in the 2004–05 portfolio additional estimates statements.

See also: summary resource tables.