Chapter 8 - Planning and restoration
The EPBC Act does not facilitate the maintenance or restoration of the environment. The current settings cannot halt the trajectory of environmental decline or manage cumulative impacts.
The settings of the Act cannot mobilise the large-scale restoration needed and support future development in a sustainable way.
Reversing this unsustainable trajectory will require planning to manage the environment on a national or regional (landscape) scale, as well as broad scale investment in restoration. To do this effectively and efficiently, a fundamental shift is required – from a transaction-based approach to one that is centred on effective and adaptive planning.
The regulatory levers of government, including offsets, should align with the priorities of plans. However, immediate change is required to the current EPBC Act environmental offsets policy to ensure that offsets do not continue to contribute towards environmental decline.
The scale of investment required to enable future development to be sustainable means that environmental restoration cannot be delivered solely by direct government investment.
The EPBC Act can provide certainty for investment in offsets and identify matters of national environmental significance in need of protection and restoration. But outside of the Act, more work is needed to recognise and halt the degradation of Australia’s ‘natural capital’.
More avenues for investment in restoration and sustainable land management will ‘grow the pie’ to improve the overall state of the environment. This will enable Australia to accommodate future development in a sustainable way.
The key reforms recommended by the Review are:
- Strategic national plans for ‘big-ticket’, nationally-pervasive issues to guide the national response and enable action and investment by all parties.
- Regional plans that support the management of the environment at the landscape scale. These plans should be consistent with the National Environmental Standards and developed in accordance with quality planning principles.
- Immediate improvements should be made to the offsets policy ahead of more fundamental legislative change.
- The Commonwealth should formally examine and publicly report on the feasibility (costs and benefits) of an investment and research organisation and the suite of measures required to deliver environmental restoration.