Overview of Cost Recovery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012

Cost recovery and national environment law

The Australian Government has proposed the introduction of cost recovery arrangements as part of a package of reforms for national environmental law. This was a key recommendation of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (the Independent Review).

What is cost recovery?

Cost recovery means charging a fee to cover the cost of specific services provided by the Australian Government for work that benefits particular groups or individuals.

Which activities are proposed for cost recovery?

The Australian Government has agreed to introduce cost recovery arrangements for selected regulatory activities under the EPBC Act, including environmental impact assessments and some strategic assessments. New cost recovery measures are dependent on amendments to the EPBC Act before they can come into effect.

Partial cost recovery for wildlife trade permits will continue, however, and fees have been increased to better reflect the cost of assessment services for permits.

Under the EPBC Act, those who generate the need for environmental regulation and use the assessment services of the department will bear the cost of providing these services.

Why is cost recovery necessary?

The introduction of cost recovery arrangements for environmental assessments will enable assessment resources to keep pace with demand, as each proponent will pay for the services required to assess their application.

When will fees be introduced?

Cost recovery for environmental impact assessment and strategic assessment cannot take effect until the passage of amending legislation and new regulations are made. The Government has proposed to introduce such amendments into the next Parliament.

Increases in wildlife trade related fees do not require amendments to the EPBC Act, but do require changing current regulations. A new regulation was made in June 2013 and new application fees for certain wildlife trade permits commenced on 1 July 2013. For permits where there are currently no fees, no new fees are proposed.

You can find out more by going to the wildlife trade section of our website.

Who does cost recovery apply to?

Cost recovery will apply to anyone who seeks a decision through national environmental law for permit applications for wildlife trade or environmental assessment.

Will there be any exemptions or waivers?

There are different exemption and waiver criteria proposed for environmental impact assessments and wildlife trade regulation, the full details of which are outlined in the draft EPBC Act Cost Recovery Impact Statement.

For environmental impact assessments, exemptions are proposed for small businesses with an annual turnover of $2 million or less. This exemption could apply to small agricultural businesses, small tourism operators and small businesses that are conducting research and development.

It is proposed to allow for Ministerial discretion to waive fees for environmental impact assessments on a case by case basis, including for exceptional circumstances. The Minister would also have the right to refuse a fee waiver application at his or her discretion.

Fee exemptions for wildlife trade permits still apply. This includes instances where the applicant is the Commonwealth or a state or territory government. There are no waiver provisions proposed for wildlife trade permits.

There are no exemptions or waivers proposed for strategic assessments.

Does cost recovery guarantee approval?

No. Cost recovery does not guarantee approval under national environmental law. Cost recovery is being introduced to cover the cost of assessing applications and these costs are incurred whether or not the assessment is approved.

When are fees due to be paid under the new arrangements?

Fees must be paid prior to each part of the assessment process or service commencing.

For environmental assessments, the entire cost of a referral or an assessment will be identified at the start of the process. This cost will be broken down into a series of fee points, and each fee point must be paid prior to the commencement of the corresponding stage of the assessment process.

If the project is withdrawn, or otherwise does not commence, the proponent is not charged the fees associated with the remaining fee points. Fees already paid for completed assessment activities will not be refunded.

For wildlife trade, this means that fees must be paid before an application is assessed.

Will current projects being assessed be subject to fees when cost recovery commences?

For environmental impact assessments, cost recovery arrangements will only apply to proposed actions referred to the department after 8 May 2012. Further, fees will only apply to the assessment work or stages of the assessment process undertaken by the department after the commencement of cost recovery.

Fees will not be charged retrospectively for any stages of the assessment process that have already been completed.

Fees for wildlife trade permit applications are payable before the application is assessed. As the costs recovered are the cost of assessing the application, fees will not be refunded if an application is rejected.

What if I have some additional questions on the proposed cost recovery arrangements?

If you have any additional questions, please call the department's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772 or email your query to the Cost Recovery Mailbox at: epbc.costrecovery@environment.gov.au

If you have any questions about wildlife trade permit applications, please contact:
The Director
Wildlife Trade Regulation Section
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6274 1900
Facsimile: (02) 6274 1921
Email: wildlifetrade@environment.gov.au