Referrals under the EPBC Act
To conserve and protect the heritage values of a World or National Heritage place, an action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on those values may be referred to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts (the Minister) for assessment.
What is a referral, an action, an approval and 'significant impact'?
- Find out more about what activities have to be referred for approval to protect the heritage values of places.
When do I have to refer actions to the Minister?
A person proposing to take an action must refer a proposed action if it has, will have, or is likely to have a significant impact on the world heritage values of a declared World Heritage property. Certain actions must also be referred to the Minister if the action has, will have, or is likely to have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of a National Heritage place. These include:
- Actions undertaken by a Commonwealth agency or a constitutional corporation,
- Actions taken by persons for the purposes of trade or commerce between states and territories and with other countries and
- Actions taken in a Commonwealth area or a territory.
Further actions that must be referred to the Minister include actions taken by persons that have, will have or are likely to have a significant impact on:
- National Heritage values that are indigenous heritage values or
- National Heritage values of a National Heritage place that is in an area where Australia has obligations under Article 8 of the Biodiversity Convention.
What if I fail to refer actions for approval?
Failure to refer the action for the approval of the Minister could result in a number of outcomes.
How do I make a referral?
Referrals must include information about the person proposing to take the action and the proposed action. This will include details of what is proposed, where and when, and a description of the likely impact on the heritage values of the place. Referrals are submitted to the Approvals and Wildlife Division on a referral form, which can be obtained from the Department.
- Find out about preparing a referral
- Find out about assessing if a proposed action is likely to have a 'significant' impact on the National Heritage values of the place.
How long do referrals take?
The EPBC Act requires a decision on assessment to be made within 20 business days from the date the referral is received by the Minister. If the Minister believes that not enough information has been provided to make an informed controlled action or assessment approach decision, further information may be requested from the person proposing to take the action. This 'stops the clock' in terms of the time in which the Minister must make a decision until sufficient information is received.
Are referrals confidential?
Referrals are not ordinarily confidential. The Minister is required to invite public comment with respect to referrals through publication on the Department's website. However the Minister may decide not to publish information within a referral if he or she is satisfied that that information is commercial-in-confidence.
Controlled actions - what next?
If the Minister decides that significant impacts are likely, then the action requires approval under the EPBC Act. The action is known as a 'controlled action'.