Response to Review of the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act
UDIA National has now lodged an extensive submission in response to the Commonwealth Government’s Independent Review of the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
The review – chaired by Professor Graeme Samuel – represents a landmark opportunity to overhaul the EPBC Act’s legislative, regulatory and administrative framework.
As well as meeting Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Professor Samuels, UDIA National has engaged extensively with our Members over the past six months to prepare our submission.
Fixing the Act represents one of the major advocacy priorities of UDIA National, and our submission highlights priorities for the review including:
- Ensuring proposed listings of new Matters of National Environmental Significance (MoNES) are underpinned by clear science and evidence – and accompanied by a Regulatory Impact Statement canvassing potential economic costs or consequences.
- Embedding greater interagency and inter-governmental collaboration and decision-making in the function of the EPBC to better ensure balanced outcomes.
- Progressing towards the one-stop shop premise that underpins the EPBC Act and absorbs lessons from existing processes which work well.
- Completing bilateral agreements and strategic assessments (as well as updating existing bilateral agreements) within a fixed timeline to strip out duplication and eliminate opportunities for different tiers of government to revisit earlier assessment outcomes.
- Developing and applying statutory timeframes for responding to applicants and introduce the concept of ‘deemed consent’ when they are not met.
- Provide a simpler and more effective regime for offsets – replacing the current inefficiencies and inconsistencies that neither deliver good environmental outcomes or certainty for proponents.
- Lifting the quality, consistency and transparency of guidance, particularly throughout the referral process.
We have also made clear there are interim steps the Government should take to secure more timely decision-making, particularly in light of the economic effects of COVID-19.
UDIA National has recommended giving priority focus to any projects which were initially referred over eighteen months ago, including:
- All projects that entered the assessment regime prior to July 1, 2019, be guaranteed a decision by July 1, 2020.
- All projects that entered the assessment regime prior to January 1, 2020, be guaranteed a decision by October 1, 2020; and
- All projects that entered the assessment regime post January 1, 2020, be guaranteed a decision by January 1, 2021.