Covering the period 16 July 2000 to 30 June 2001
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4770 X
This is the first report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 describing its operation from when it came into force on 16 July 2000 to 30 June 2001.
The Act represents the most fundamental reform of Commonwealth environment laws since the first environment statutes were enacted in the early 1970s. The Act focuses Commonwealth interests on matters of national environmental significance. It also enables the Commonwealth to join with the States and Territories in providing a truly national scheme of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. The Act does this by providing for Commonwealth leadership on the environment, while recognising and respecting the responsibility of the States and Territories for delivering on-ground resource management.
The objectives of the Act are:
- to provide for the protection of the environment, especially those aspects of the environment that are matters of national environmental significance; and
- to promote ecologically sustainable development through the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources; and
- to promote the conservation of biodiversity; and
- to promote a cooperative approach to the protection and management of the environment involving governments, the community, land-holders and indigenous peoples; and
- to assist in the cooperative implementation of Australia's international environmental responsibilities; and
- to recognise the role of indigenous people in the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's biodiversity; and
- to promote the use of indigenous peoples' knowledge of biodiversity with the involvement of, and in cooperation with, the owners of the knowledge.
This report examines the operation of the Act against key priorities in implementing the Act in its first year. The key priorities are:
- ensuring a clear role for the Commonwealth in protecting matters of national environmental significance (addressed in Part 1.1 of this report);
- providing more effective protection of the environment in proposals involving the Commonwealth (addressed in Part 1.2);
- increasing intergovernmental cooperation and reducing duplication (addressed in Part 1.3);
- providing a more efficient, timely and effective assessment and approval process with greater certainty (addressed in Part 1.4);
- increasing transparency and public involvement (addressed in Part 1.5);
- taking an integrated approach to conserving biodiversity (addressed in Part 2); and
- developing an improved monitoring and compliance regime (addressed in Part 3).
Statistics on the operation of the Act are in Appendix 1.
The report also notes progress that has been made in addressing indigenous issues through the Act. The involvement of indigenous peoples in the management of Commonwealth reserves is dealt with separately in the report of the Director of National Parks and in the Departmental annual report. Actions that have been taken include:
- The Indigenous Advisory Committee was established and met three times.
- Regulations, taking into account issues important to indigenous communities, were drafted to control access and utilisation of biological resources in Commonwealth areas.
- The particular communication needs of indigenous people affected by a proposal are taken into account in the assessment and approvals process and are recognised in a bilateral agreement signed with Tasmania.
- Work commenced on a model conservation agreement that could be used to provide support to indigenous landowners willing to make a long-term commitment to biodiversity conservation.
- As part of the Environment Australia Reconciliation Action Plan, staff involved in assessment and approval of actions under Chapter 4 of the Act were trained in cross-cultural awareness.