Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, August 2011
The Australian Government's reform of national environment law—the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999—will deliver better cooperation with state and territory governments, business and the community, for a more consistent national approach to environmental protection, reduced red tape and duplication, and better community involvement.
Working closer with the state and territory governments
The Australian Government is committed to working in close cooperation with the state and territory governments on these reforms. The Government will lead national discussions with the state and territory governments to:
- ensure more effective environmental assessment and approval processes, through the development of new national standards for environmental assessments, accreditation of state processes and the establishment of joint assessment panels
- streamline approvals, and increase business certainly through greater use of strategic approaches
- reduce duplication between the Australian Government and states and territories by developing a national threatened species list
- develop national standards for biodiversity banking and environmental offsets.
A National Centre for Cooperation on Environment and Development
The Australian Government is calling for expressions of interest to establish a National Centre for Cooperation on Environment and Development.
The new centre would provide a neutral forum for industry, scientists, non-government organisations and governments to work together to develop recommendations for national environmental standards, guidelines and procedures under national environment law.
Participation in the centre would be entirely voluntary and self-funded. The centre will not be involved in individual project assessments or decisions.
The Government is writing to universities, research institutions and other potential partners to invite expressions of interest.
Involving the community
Community involvement is an important part of the environmental assessment process, and the Government is making it easier for the community to have a say.
Improved upfront guidance about what would be acceptable under national environment law will give the community and business a clearer understanding of requirements and expectations. Guidance material will include information tailored to specific industries and locations, a guide to standard approval conditions and a clear policy on environmental offsets. It will also include policy guidelines on what kinds of development should be referred, and 'significant impact' guidelines to guide decision making.
The federal environment department's website will be improved to make it easier for interested members of the public to access.
The minimum public consultation period on proposed developments will be increased from the current 10 business days to 11 business days. This will help to ensure community members have the opportunity to comment on proposals, by including at least two weekends in every comment period.
For projects that are subject to full environmental impact assessment, a further and longer comment period also applies.
Decision processes under national environment law will be more transparent, with more information routinely made public, including: recommendation reports from the department; fisheries assessments and amendments to the live import list; and the advice of expert councils and committees for decisions on listing species, ecological communities and heritage places.