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EPBC Act reform

EPBC Act reform

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The release of the interim report on the statutory review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) has led Environment Minister Sussan Ley to commit the Commonwealth to prioritise the development of new national environmental standards.

The review, undertaken by Professor Graeme Samuel AC found the current EPBC Act legislation “cumbersome” and “not serving the interests of the environment or business”.

Streamlining environmental assessments and reduction of red tape has long been top of the wish-list for businesses, with many major projects consistently facing lengthy approval delays marred by inconsistent rulings and duplication of separate environmental assessments at Federal, State and Local Government levels.

As a national UDIA councillor, JBS&G Executive Director Darren Walsh has worked with the national team on its advocacy goal of streamlining environmental planning practices, meeting with Minister Ley and Prof. Samuel within the past year.

Key recommendations of the EPBC Act review include:

  • national environmental standards should anchor new framework, should provide clear benchmarks for defining and achieving environmental outcomes and set clear and consistent rules
  • allow for greater delegation to the States to carry out assessments and approvals on behalf of the Commonwealth
  • the Act should be reformed in the short-term to remove known inconsistencies, gaps and conflicts – with a comprehensive rewrite of the Act the ultimate goal.

In response to the recommendations on the basis of the interim report, the Commonwealth has committed to:

  • developing national environmental standards to underpin bilateral agreements with the State Governments
  • commence discussions with willing States to enter agreements for ‘single touch approvals’ (removing duplication)
  • establishing an Environmental Markets Advisory Group to explore market-based solutions that improve environmental outcomes and provide greater business certainty.

The Commonwealth will also look to strengthen compliance functions and ensure that all bilateral agreements are subject to rigorous assurance monitoring.

A second round of consultation and workshops will be held prior to the release of Prof. Samuel’s final report, due in October 2020. Darren Walsh, in his capacity as a national UDIA representative will continue to be involved in the consultation and workshop phases as they progress.

Our teams actively remain across the EPBC Act reforms and we will continue to ensure our clients are best-placed with first-hand knowledge and a solid understanding of the updates and outcomes as they occur.

In the meantime, should you wish to discuss any aspect of your current or upcoming projects, please don't hesitate to contact us.