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.
Strongly agree. As long as the standards are strong enough to effectively protect & enhance biodiversity. No point having standards that allow efficient decision making if not guided by my previous statement
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.
Strongly agree. Ecologically sustainable development is a contradiction in terms, in the Act's current form. The point of the Act must enforce the last sentence in your statement
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.
Strongly agree. Proper resourcing of the Act should allow for regional plans
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.
Strongly agree. Statement says it all
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.
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.
Agree. This may need to be flexible in terms of the knowledge of local indigenous communities vs science.
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.
Agree. I don't know enough about this
In the short-term, legislative amendments to the EPBC Act are required to address known inconsistencies, gaps, and conflicts in the Act.
Strongly agree. If it's necessary to have a staged review & change to legislation, then matters requiring the most urgent change should be addressed first
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.
Strongly agree. Whatever is needed to achieve the best outcomes for our biodiversity
Redrafting could include consideration of dividing the Act—such as creating separate pieces of legislation for its key functional areas.
Agree. Probably, don't know...
EFFICIENCY - REMOVING DUPLICATION
Devolve decisions to other jurisdictions, where they demonstrate National Environmental Standards can be met.
Agree. If that means devolving to regional/local jurisdictions that have greater expertise about a particular area/issue, then ok. But not if that weakens the outcomes for nature
To base devolution on sound accreditation, quality assurance and compliance, escalation (including step-in capability) and regular review.
Strongly agree. So proper ongoing resourcing
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.
Agree. As long as it guarantees better outcomes for nature
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. Need to be able to trust processes guarantee best outcomes for nature
Streamline provisions for permitting of wildlife trade and interactions with other environmental frameworks.
Agree. I don't know enough about this
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.
Agree. As long as the participation is not 'going through the motions' of consulting the community (ie tick that box). The bottom line is whatever process is used has to to lead to best outcomes for supporting biodiversity
Provide confidence that decision-makers have access to the best available environmental, cultural, social and economic information.
Strongly agree. For sure but the weighting of information when decisions have to be made must guarantee the best outcome for biodiversity
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.
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.
Strongly agree. It must be well resourced & transparent so it can be trusted
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.
Strongly agree. A worthwhile investment
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.
Strongly agree. Yes if that's what's needed to achieve better outcomes
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.
Agree. There will be a net loss if you retain one area as an offset but lose the other
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.
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.
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.
Strongly agree. Whatever is needed to improve outcomes for biodiversity
Increase the transparency of activities.
Effectively draw on Standards, simplified law, and better systems to increase compliance and simplify enforcement and assurance.
Strongly agree. Best resources, best processes to achieve best outcomes for biodiversity
Shift focus toward assurance of devolved decision-making and monitoring, compliance and enforcement of national strategic plans, regional plans, offsets and regeneration.
Agree. Devolution can't lead to weakening. It must be resourced so it strengthens processes & outcomes
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?