Regional Development Australia Pilbara
Submission in response to discussion paper
Some have argued that past changes to the EPBC Act to add new matters of national environmental significance did not go far enough. Others have argued it has extended the regulatory reach of the Commonwealth too far. What do you think?
The EPBC Act should address matters that are of national importance or cross state boundaries. It is considered that the addition of water resources in relation to coal seam gas and large coal mining development is appropriate due to the scale and nature of the water systems in Australia. Any further additions to the Matters of Environmental Significance (MNES) must also exhibit similar characteristics of importance and scale.
Should the objects of the EPBC Act be more specific?
No. If the objects became more specific, it is possible that this would then provide grounds for exclusion of aspects addressed by the EPBC Act. Although it is considered that the Act is not delivering on the full scope of its objects, it is not recommended that the objects are modified.
Should the matters of national environmental significance within the EPBC Act be changed? How?
Consideration should be given to the inclusion of national emissions standards (including greenhouse gas emissions and air toxics) as this will remove the need for the NEPM legislation to be enacted by the States and provide a coordinated response to an issue of national significance. Additional consideration should be made for removing those MNES that are adequately protected under State legislation. This would remove unnecessary duplication of assessment.
Should the EPBC Act regulate environmental and heritage outcomes instead of managing prescriptive processes?
Utilisation of the EPBC Act to proactively protect significant, nationally important environmental and heritage values is supported, particularly in comparison to achieving outcomes in an ad-hoc manner as a result of the assessment of proposals. Environmental protection recommendations should be based on bio-regional planning, strategic assessment and transparent analysis, and supported with resources to continually manage, monitor and report on conservation status and environmental quality.
Should there be a greater role for national environmental standards in achieving the outcomes the EPBC Act seeks to achieve? In our federated system should they be prescribed through:
Non-binding policy and strategies?
Expansion of targeted standards, similar to the approach to site contamination under the National Environment Protection Council, or water quality in the Great Barrier Reef catchments?
The development of broad environmental standards with the Commonwealth taking a monitoring and assurance role? Does the information exist to do this?
The prescription of environmental standards is supported where these are evidence-based and transparently adopted to provide greater certainty for proponents. These should be prescribed only where the environmental context is broader than a single State. Monitoring should be undertaken with standards revised to incorporate learnings where relevant. This should occur through the establishment of key performance indicators and reporting against these indicators.
How can environmental protection and environmental restoration be best achieved together?
Should the EPBC Act have a greater focus on restoration?
Should the Act include incentives for proactive environmental protection?
How will we know if we’re successful?
How should Indigenous land management practices be incorporated?
Through bio-regional planning and establishment of appropriate conservation reserves and management frameworks which consider threatening processes and incorporate joint management by indigenous people. This would need to be adequately resourced and delivered effectively in close collaboration with State and local government, industry and the community. Ongoing audit of approved proposals to ensure that both rehabilitation commitments are completed, and offsets are appropriate is also critical.
Should the EPBC Act be amended to enable broader accreditation of state and territory, local and other processes?
Yes. As stated previously, the inefficient duplication of assessment of protected species should be undertaken via State mechanisms. This could free up much needed resources which could then be used to undertake strategic assessments and bio-regional planning, as well as monitoring and reporting on environmental condition.
How should the EPBC Act support the engagement of Indigenous Australians in environment and heritage management?
How can we best engage with Indigenous Australians to best understand their needs and potential contributions?
What mechanisms should be added to the Act to support the role of Indigenous Australians?
This question is best answered by the Indigenous community. However, consideration should be given to the requirement for joint management of all national parks and conservation reserves and sole management of land in Indigenous Protected Areas.
Is the EPBC Act delivering what was intended in an efficient and effective manner?
No. Dual assessment of protected species (MNES) is resulting in increased time delays and cost to proponents, in addition to sometimes creating conflicting requirements and conditions. The emphasis on achieving outcomes via assessment of individual projects is reactive and does not support consideration of cumulative impacts, threatening processes or the most effective and efficient way to retain or enhance regional environmental values. There is a lack of transparency in decision making and uncertainty regarding appropriate thresholds or trade-offs.
Is the EPBC Act sufficient to address future challenges? Why?
No. The current lack of a strategic focus and preference for project-based assessment means that it is likely that environmental quality will continue to decline. This does not support a coordinated effort to address threatening processes such as climate change.
What are the priority areas for reform?
- Removal of duplication of state processes and consolidation of protected species and communities lists;
- Increased transparency and guidance for decision-making;
- Increased collaboration and engagement of stakeholders, particularly indigenous groups;
- Increased focus on bio-regional planning, representative conservation reserves systems and collaborative management, and strategic assessment; and
- Increased level of monitoring and reporting of environmental quality including against agreed indicators.
Is there anything else of importance to you that you would like the review to consider?
No thank you.
The full text of this submission including the attachment can be downloaded using the ‘download pdf’ link in the sidebar of this page.