New Ground | Expert Environmental Consultants in Queensland

Considerations Arising from Review of the Federal Government’s Nature Positive EPBC Act Reforms Package

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) recently sought public feedback on proposed amendments to Australia’s environmental laws, with submissions now closed, we offer the following recommendations for consideration in preparing for implementation of the Nature Positive Package:

Implement National Environmental Standards

Implement standards that cover Matters of National Environmental Significance and other Important Matters that are based on scientific and planning principles. The Standards should provide key technical diagnostic information to avoid confusion and uncertainty while not being overly prescriptive to the extent that alternative solutions conducive to good environmental outcomes are disregarded.

Delegate Responsibilities to States

To streamline processes and reduce duplication, states and other entities should be delegated responsibilities under the EPBC Act, contingent upon formal accreditation and monitoring.

Introduce an Environment Assurance Commissioner

 Establish this independent statutory position to oversee the National Environmental Standards’ implementation with a mandate to ensure that decisions align with the law and balance environmental, social and economic considerations.

Focus on Bioregional Planning

 Emphasis on bioregional planning is crucially needed for achieving better environmental outcomes by managing regional, strategic and cumulative impacts under the EPBC Act through partnerships between the Commonwealth, states, territories, industry, conservation/offset stakeholders and project proponents. For effective bioregional planning, comprehensive assessments of social, economic, and environmental impacts are deemed essential. This gives rise to informed decision-making, balancing biodiversity conservation with other land-use priorities (and existing regional plans/planning instruments pertinent to the given region/jurisdiction).

Clarify the ‘Nature Positive’ Vision

Address the current disconnect between the government’s Nature Positive aspiration and the Net Positive outcomes required by draft legislation. Nature Positive should aim for an overall enhancement of the environment, not just a reduction in decline.

Regularly Review EPBC Act Reforms

Ensure that the reforms under the Nature Positive plan are periodically reviewed in consultation with industry and community stakeholders, allowing for necessary adjustments to meet environmental, social, and economic objectives.

Promote Collaboration Over Authority

While the notion of the Department having greater enforcement emphasis and capacity has merit, it is vital that the Department work with industry and community with a spirit of collaboration; rather than taking an authoritative stance. We expect that great environmental outcomes would be achieved by a compliance approach that is underpinned with an intention to educate and empower.

Base Decisions on Scientific Data

Ensure that regional plan-making and national standard formulation are grounded in robust scientific evidence, balancing social, economic and environmental objectives.

Increase Transparency and Technical Certainty

It is key that regional plan-making and national standard formulation are underpinned by sound scientific data (and map data sets where applicable (e.g. bioregional plans) and a balance between environmental economic and environmental objectives is sought. Similarly, greater transparency (technical guidance) is required for MNES that are responsible for a high number of EPBC Act referrals. In this way, environmental practitioners, project proponents and Departmental officers alike can have greater confidence around proposed interactions with MNES. This approach is also sorely needed with respect to Environmental Offsets. In the case of South East Queensland, uncertainty around EPBC Act environmental offset requirements has caused significant delays (and cost blow outs) to major projects. Further to this, incremental ‘ratcheting up ‘ of DCCEEW expectations for offsets has significantly reduced the pool of available offsets (and offset providers) causing major bottlenecks in regional development outcomes. Greater collaboration is required between DCCEEW and offset providers to allow for a shared vision to be created around offset program design to meet the overarching intent of ‘Nature Positive’. Stay ahead of environmental reforms and industry insights by subscribing to our newsletter below! 

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Want a free checklist?

When Do you need to talk to an ecological consultant?

Sign up to our mailing list and get a copy!

We’ve made a simple self-help checklist to help you identify when you might want to get us involved. Engaging an ecological consultant for a property project is crucial for a multitude of reasons, but when do you need to pick up the phone for a chat?