Covering the period 16 July 2000 to 30 June 2001
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4770 X
1. Protecting the environment
- Increasing stakeholder and public awareness
- Enhancing community participation
- Consultation registers
- Advisory committees
The Department has placed a high priority on increasing stakeholder and public awareness of the Act and has developed a world-class internet site - the ' EPBC Web Site' (http://www.ea.gov.au/epbc/). Internet use in Australia is increasing rapidly and this form of direct, transparent and timely communication and dissemination of information, as required for many operations under the Act, is being well received by stakeholders, non-government organisations and proponents.
The site provides a range of information products to meet the different needs of stakeholders. It also provides proponents with application forms.
The site also provides an interactive map and interview, to assist in determining whether actions should be referred under the Act. These online decision support tools received a Gold Award in the Fourteenth Government Technology Productivity Awards in March 2001and an information technology industry award from MIS Magazine in the Innovative Technology category.
The notifications pages and online decision support tools were included in a compendium of good practice to promote innovative approaches in the use of electronic tools prepared by the Regional Environment Centre for Central and Eastern Europe.
Average monthly use of the EPBC Web Site was as follows: homepage accessed 5800 times; whole site accessed 39 000 times; ' EPBC Public Notifications' page accessed 1400 times.
An information kit on the Act is available via the EPBC Web Site and in hard copy from the Department's Community Information Unit. All publications on the Act are listed in Appendix 2.
The Department has focused on ensuring that key industries and organisations that may need to refer under the Act (or can affect the decisions of others to refer) are fully aware of their obligations. Priority was also given to ensuring State and Territory agencies understand the requirements of the Act. Forty-five presentations on the Act were given during 2000-01 to a combined audience of over 2100 people. Audiences included local government, State Government agencies, peak industry groups, professional associations, Commonwealth Government authorities, environmental lawyers, international visitors, and members of the public. More detailed workshops were held for environmental consultants and Commonwealth departments to explain the relevant parts of the Act.
The Department provided funding of $60 000 to the World Wide Fund for Nature to enable it to provide information on the Act; promote the involvement of conservation organisations in the implementation of the Act; and produce printed material for conservation groups and others interested in the Act.
The Act provides for community participation in:
- screening referrals to decide whether an action needs approval;
- the environmental impact assessment process;
- the development and operation of bilateral agreements; and
- the management of wildlife and protected areas.
The public notifications page on the EPBC Web Site is used for public comment, stakeholder involvement, and public awareness of key referral, assessment and approval decisions (http://www.ea.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl).
The Department also met notification and publication requirements under the Act and Regulations by publishing weekly notices in the Commonwealth Government Gazette. Statutory timeframes for publishing notices were met in nearly all cases - the small number of exceptions were due to technical problems, since rectified.
Draft bilateral agreements were advertised for public comment in newspapers and on the EPBC Web Site on 19 July 2000. Twenty-six public comments were received. In accordance with Section 45(4) of the Act, notice of the Minister's decision to enter into a bilateral agreement with Tasmania was published on 28 March 2001. A copy of the bilateral agreement, together with a statement of reasons and report on comments, were made available on the EPBC Web Site.
Under Section 266A of the Act, a register was established to allow interested people or organisations to be consulted on permit applications relating to listed threatened species and communities, migratory species, whales and other cetaceans, and listed marine species. Sixty-seven people or organisations were registered at 30 June 2001.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee has also established a register of interested parties. This is not a statutory requirement but an administrative mechanism developed to assist the committee. Interested parties are invited to provide comment on new nominations that require further expert opinion. The register was originally established under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992. It was re-advertised following transition to the Act.
The Act establishes three advisory committees - the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, Biological Diversity Advisory Committee and Indigenous Advisory Committee - to advise the Minister on matters regarding implementation of the Act. The functions and membership of these committees are outlined in Appendix 3. Section 511 of the Act makes provision for establishment of further advisory committees if necessary.
Threatened Species Scientific Committee
The committee advises the Minister on the amendment and updating of national lists for threatened species, threatened ecological communities, and key threatening processes, and on the making or adoption of recovery plans and threat abatement plans.
Transitional arrangements and the framework for operation of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee were established in February 2000. The committee was formally appointed on 16 July 2000, when the Act commenced, with committee members appointed for a term of three years.
The committee met five times during the year - on 22 August, 24 October, and 12-13 December 2000, 22 February and 19-20 April 2001. The work of the committee is detailed in Part 2.1 of this report.
Biological Diversity Advisory Committee
The committee advises the Minister on matters relating to the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of biological diversity. The Minister provided the terms of reference for the committee on 7 July 2000 and determined the membership on 1 September 2000.
The committee met on 11-12 October 2000, 22 February and 26 April 2001. Workshops were held on 30 October 2000 and 26-27 April 2001 to develop advice to the Minister. The committee advised the Minister on objectives and targets for biodiversity conservation, particularly as these could be applied to the second phase of the Natural Heritage Trust and to natural resource management initiatives under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. The committee's advice made a significant contribution to the National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation 2001-2005 which was adopted by the Commonwealth and the majority of the State and Territory Ministers in the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council on 29 June 2001.
The committee finalised Biodiversity Conservation Research: Australia's Priorities, a report to the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. The council agreed on 15 December 2000 to the public release of the report, which was published in June 2001. The committee is considering ways to promote biodiversity conservation to local government and within the fishing and agriculture industries.
Indigenous Advisory Committee
The committee advises the Minister on the operation of the Act, taking into account the significance of Indigenous peoples' knowledge of the management of land and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The Indigenous Advisory Committee addresses only issues related to the Act.
The committee was established in July 2000 and first met in Canberra on 12-13 October 2000. The committee has since met on 1-2 March, in Perth, and on 14-15 June 2001, at Kakadu National Park.
Issues on the committee's agenda include:
- proposed regulations relating to access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas;
- amendments to the Act dealing with heritage sites;
- directions in ethnobiological research;
- bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments concerning environmental impact assessment; and
- Indigenous involvement in the management of World Heritage properties.