Submission made in response to the June 2020 Interim Report of the EPBC Act Review
Note: Responses were automatically limited to 255 characters unless otherwise indicated
NATIONAL LEVEL PROTECTION AND CONSERVATION OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND ICONIC PLACES
Legally enforceable National Environmental Standards should be the foundation for effective regulation. The Standards should focus on outcomes for matters of national environmental significance, and the fundamentally important processes for sound and efficient decision-making. Standards will provide certainty—in terms of the environmental outcomes the community can expect from the law, and the legal obligations of proponents.
Agree. I would strongly agree if not for the focus on only national environmentally significant matters. Many of our threatened species are not nationally significant but desparately need to be protected. Standards provide certainty but need to be set high.
The goal of the EPBC Act should be to deliver ecologically sustainable development. The Act should require that National Environmental Standards are set and decisions are made in a way that ensures it is achieved. The Act should support a focus on protecting (avoiding impact), conserving (minimising impact) and restoring the environment.
Disagree. The goal of the EPBC Act is to protect what is left of our natural environment and the species that live there. It is not there to deliver sustainable development
A greater focus on adaptive planning is required to deliver environmental outcomes. Regional plans should be developed that support the management of cumulative threats and set clear rules to manage competing land uses at the right scale.
Agree. Not just cumulative threats but also individual threats.
Strategic national plans should be developed for big-ticket, nationally pervasive issues such as the management of feral animals or adaptation of the environment to climate change. These plans should guide the national response and enable action and investment by all parties to be effectively targeted and efficient.
INDIGENOUS CULTURE AND HERITAGE
The National Environmental Standards should include specific requirements relating to best practice Indigenous engagement, to enable Indigenous views and knowledge to be incorporated into regulatory processes.
Agree. Many traditional means of managing the land are better than the ones used now
The national level settings for Indigenous cultural heritage protection need comprehensive review. This should explicitly consider the role of the EPBC Act in providing protections. It should also consider how comprehensive national level protections are given effect, including how they interact with the development assessment and approval process of the Act.
Strongly agree. We never want to see the distruction of cuturally significant sites again. What has happened this year is a disgrace and the government could have stopped it
Indigenous knowledge and western science should be considered on an equal footing in the provision of formal advice to the Environment Minister. The proposed Science and Information Committee should be responsible for ensuring advice incorporates the culturally appropriate use of Indigenous knowledge.
Disagree. Indigenous knowledge is an important consideration but the results of scientific research should out way all other considerations
Where aligned with their aspirations, transition to Traditional Owners having more responsibility for decision-making in jointly managed parks. For this to be successful in the long term there is a need to build capacity and capability, so that joint-boards can make decisions that effectively manage risks and discharge responsibilities.
Improved outcomes for Indigenous Australians will be achieved by enabling co-design and policy implementation.
The role of the Indigenous Advisory Committee should be substantially recast as the Indigenous Knowledge and Engagement Committee, whose role is to provide leadership in the co-design of reforms and advise the Environment Minister on the development and application of the National Environmental Standard for Indigenous engagement.
Disagree. Partly agree but not necessarily leadership where the scientific evidence should be guiding any reforms
In the short-term, legislative amendments to the EPBC Act are required to address known inconsistencies, gaps, and conflicts in the Act.
Agree. Only where those gaps, inconsistancies and conflicts weaken the case for protection.
In the longer-term, a comprehensive redrafting of the Act (or related Acts) is required. This should be done following the development of the key reforms proposed by this Review. This sequencing will ensure that legislation is developed in a way that supports the desired approach, rather than inadvertently hindering it.
Disagree. Agree that a comprehensive redrafting is required but this current review should not be the basis of the required changes its too rushed and too biased towards weakening the legeslation
Redrafting could include consideration of dividing the Act—such as creating separate pieces of legislation for its key functional areas.
Disagree. This sounds dangerous. It sounds like an excuse to weaken laws protecting the environment
EFFICIENCY - REMOVING DUPLICATION
Devolve decisions to other jurisdictions, where they demonstrate National Environmental Standards can be met.
To base devolution on sound accreditation, quality assurance and compliance, escalation (including step-in capability) and regular review.
Assessment pathways should be rationalised and implemented with clear guidance, modern systems and appropriate cost recovery. Small investments can dramatically reduce cost and uncertainty and improve decision-making.
These, and other reform directions proposed (National Environmental Standards, regional plans, information and data, modern regulatory systems) create opportunities for significant streamlining and efficiency, including where low risk actions will not require approval.
Disagree. one persons idea of low risk action is anothers decimation of natural environments for no good reason
Streamline provisions for permitting of wildlife trade and interactions with other environmental frameworks.
Not applicable. I have no real knowledge of the permitted wildlife trade other than to know it is not a good thing and should be avoided
TRUST IN THE EPBC ACT
Improve community participation in decision-making processes, and the transparency of both the information used and the reasons for decisions.
Strongly agree. We don't want back door decisions influenced by big business and donations to political parties
Provide confidence that decision-makers have access to the best available environmental, cultural, social and economic information.
Amend the settings for legal review. While retaining extended standing, provide for limited merits review for development approvals. Legal challenges should be limited to matters of outcome, not process, to reduce litigation that does not have a material impact on the outcome.
DATA, INFORMATION AND SYSTEMS
A national ‘supply chain’ of information is required so that the right information is delivered at the right time to those who need it. This supply chain should be an easily accessible ‘single source of truth’ on which the public, proponents and governments can rely.
Agree. Sounds good in theory but how would we know this is the best source of truth.
To deliver an efficient supply chain, a clear strategy is needed so that each investment made contributes to building and improving the system over time.
A custodian for the national environmental information supply chain is needed. The Commonwealth should clearly assign responsibility for national level leadership and coordination. Adequate resources should be provided to develop the systems and capability that is needed to deliver the evidence base for Australia’s national system of environmental management.
Disagree. too much conflict of interest for this to be a government body. look at the Climate Council, AWC and other conservation bodies. They have the science and need to be listened to.
A National Environmental Standard for information and data should set clear requirements for the provision of data and information in a way that facilitates transparency and sharing. The standard should apply to all sources of data and information, including information collected by proponents.
To apply granular standards to decision-making, Government needs the capability to model the environment, including the probability of outcomes from proposals. To do this well, investment is required to improve knowledge of how ecosystems operate and develop the capability to model them. This requires a complete overhaul of existing systems to enable improved information to be captured and incorporated into decision-making.
MONITORING, EVALUATION AND REPORTING
A coherent framework to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the EPBC Act in achieving its outcomes and the efficiency of its implementation should be developed. The framework must be backed by a commitment to its implementation.
A revamp of national SoE reporting should incorporate trend analysis and address future outlooks to provide the foundation for national leadership on the environment.
National environmental economic accounts will be a useful tool for tracking Australia’s progress to achieve ecologically sustainable development (ESD). Efforts to finalise the development of these accounts should be accelerated, so they can be a core input to SoE reporting.
The EPBC Act should require offsets to be considered only when options to avoid and then mitigate impacts have been actively considered, and demonstrably exhausted.
The EPBC Act should require offsets, where they are applied, to deliver protection and restoration that genuinely offsets the impacts of the development, avoiding a net loss of habitat.
Strongly agree. like for like habitat restoration not just any old retsoration project. Time also needs to be taken into account. you can't wipe out habitat and expect offsets to provide habitat immediately.
The EPBC Act should incentivise investment in restoration, by requiring decision-makers to accept robust restoration offsets, and create the market mechanisms to underpin the supply of restoration offsets.
Agree. But as question 67 states offsets have to be a last resort. this approach should not be an excuse for allowing offsets when protection of existing habitat is the correct decision.
There are opportunities for government to explore policy mechanisms to accelerate environmental restoration including those to leverage the carbon market, which already delivers restoration, to deliver improved biodiversity in suitable habitat types.
Strongly agree. Reef Credits and Cassowary Credits are examples but only where the cost of auditing and other administration does not outway the benefits as they currently do with small scale restoration projects and the Carbon Market
There are opportunities for government to explore policy mechanisms to accelerate environmental restoration including those to co-invest with the philanthropic and private sectors, including funding innovation to bring down the cost of environmental restoration, growing the habitat available to support healthy systems.
COMPLIANCE, ENFORCEMENT AND ASSURANCE
Establish a modern, independent regulator responsible for monitoring, compliance, enforcement and assurance to be a strong cop on the beat.
Agree. only if this means improvements
Increase the transparency of activities.
Effectively draw on Standards, simplified law, and better systems to increase compliance and simplify enforcement and assurance.
Agree. but only where simplified laws and simplified enforcement provides a better environmental outcome
Shift focus toward assurance of devolved decision-making and monitoring, compliance and enforcement of national strategic plans, regional plans, offsets and regeneration.
Not applicable. Sorry I'm not sure where you would be devolving these decisions to so i can't say.
Provide the regulator with a full suite of modern regulatory monitoring, compliance, enforcement and assurance tools and adequate funding.
PROPOSED REFORM PATHWAY
Do you broadly agree with the phased approach proposed by the Review?
Agree. Only if this leads to stronger laws and better environmental outcomes