National environment law reform
On 24 August 2011 the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities released the government response to the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as part of a broad package of reforms for Australia's national environment law.
Announcing the reform package the Minister said that these reforms would:
- deliver better environmental protection focusing on whole regions and ecosystems and faster environmental assessments
- provide a consistent national approach to environmental impact assessments that removes duplication, cuts red tape, and
- provide better upfront guidance on legislation requirements, with more long-term certainty and transparency.
As part of its work to implement this reform package, the Australian Government has been leading a national reform process to deliver a simpler environmental protection system that has clearer standards and gives faster decisions to ensure our nation has a both a resilient environment and a strong economy.
Progress of the reforms
At its 13 April 2012 meeting COAG agreed that the Australian, state and territory governments would work together to develop bilateral arrangements allowing the Australian Government to accredit state and territory assessment and approval processes.
As part of this COAG process, the Australian Government developed a draft Framework of Standards for Accreditation that was made publicly available on 2 November 2012.
This document was the basis for preliminary discussions with states and territories for the development of bilateral agreements. These discussions revealed challenges with the approach and as a result approval bilateral agreements are not being progressed at this time.
In December 2012, COAG agreed that the government will continue to work with state and territory governments to eliminate duplication, avoid delayed approval processes, and to utilise common information requirements for regulatory processes.
For more information on the COAG outcomes:
- COAG Meeting, 7 December 2012
- Draft Framework of Standards for Accreditation - released November 2012
Strategic Assesment Prospectus
A strategic assessment is a big-picture approach to environment and heritage protection that provides certainty in the long term by identifying where sustainable development can occur, the type of development that will be allowed and the conditions under which development may proceed.
The Australian Government is building an ongoing work program for strategic assessments, and is providing stakeholders with an opportunity to inform how future strategic assessments are prioritised through an expression of interest process. For more information about the Prospectus and the expression of interest process see:
- Strategic Assessment Prospectus - released May 2013
National offsets policy
On 3 October 2012 the Government released the national EPBC Act environmental offset policy, an important part of the reform process. This provides upfront guidance on the role of offsets in environmental impact assessments, and how the department considers the suitability of a proposed offset.
- EPBC Act environmental offsets policy – released October 2012
Subject to legislative amendments, cost recovery arrangements for selected activities under the EPBC Act are proposed as part of the broader EPBC Act reform package, including environmental impact assessments, some strategic assessments and changes to existing cost recovery measures for wildlife trade. Further information is available at:
- Cost Recovery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) draft Cost Recovery Impact Statement (December 2012 - June 2017)
Independent Review of the EPBC Act
The following documents relate to the statutory 10 year review of the EPBC Act:
- Independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)
- Reforming national environment law: An overview
- Government response to the independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
- Media release and transcript
- Reforms better for the environment, better for business – media release 24 August 2011
- Minister’s address to the National Press Club – transcript 24 August 2011
- Australian Government Response to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee Report: Operations of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (First, Second and Final Reports)