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Report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Covering the period 16 July 2000 to 30 June 2001
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4770 X

Overview

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 commenced on 16 July 2000 and, since that date, has been delivering important benefits for the Australian community. The Act delivers a much more effective national framework for environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity than the previous regime which was triggered in an ad hoc fashion by factors not necessarily directly related to the environment.

Benefits of the Act were demonstrated during the year in a variety of ways. The Act provided greater certainty in relation to Commonwealth involvement in environmental matters, an enhanced capacity for cooperation with the States and Territories through accredited processes and the introduction of strict timeframes within which government decisions must be made. The Act also provided increased protection for Australia's rich and unique biodiversity and our important conservation areas.

Through the Act's focus on protecting matters of national environmental significance the Commonwealth is now responsible for decision-making in relation to development proposals of truly national significance. Under the previous arrangements the Commonwealth was often not involved in decision-making for development proposals of national environmental significance or, conversely, found itself involved in the assessment of projects which raised environmental issues of only State or local importance.

During 2000-01, 294 proposed actions were referred under the Act. Of these, 73 were determined to be 'controlled actions', that is, actions that required assessment and approval under the Act. The vast majority of the proposed actions examined in 2000-01 would have proceeded without Commonwealth scrutiny under the previous Commonwealth regime.

Since coming into force, the Act has provided a more integrated framework for the conservation of Australia's biodiversity. It has enabled the Department to build on the gains made under previous legislation in conserving species and communities, identifying and managing Australia's protected areas, and protecting whales and cetaceans. In addition, the Act provides greater protection for species and communities in Commonwealth areas and facilitates world best practice management of Commonwealth reserves.

The Department committed considerable resources to implementing the new legislation including through the development of administrative systems and training and information programs. Work continues on improving the processes under the Act. Negotiations are well advanced with the States and Territories to finalise agreements for the assessment of proposals under the Act.

As part of the further development of the Act, in June 2001 Parliament passed amendments dealing with the control of wildlife trade. Other measures to protect heritage and manage access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas were also being considered at the end of this reporting period.

Report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999