The once-in-a-decade independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act), is in progress. The aim of the review is to assess the Act and the achievability of its objectives. Last month, the independent reviewer Professor Graeme Samuel AC released an Interim Report which discusses the fundamental issues with the current legislation and proposes reforms to address these problems.
The Interim Report is overtly critical of the Act in its current form, labelling it as being plagued by “fundamental inadequacies” as well as being dated and inefficient. If that’s not clear enough, the Interim Report continues to say that the Act is “not fit to manage current or future environmental challenges”.
Before identifying issues with the Act specifically, Professor Graeme Samuel highlights what he sees as the ineptitude of the Act and states that, whilst extensive, the Interim Report is not an all-encompassing synopsis of all of the Act’s issues.
In short, a summary of some of the key findings of the Interim Report include:
- The current trajectory of Australia’s natural environment is unsustainable
- The Act does not enable the Commonwealth to play its role in protecting important environmental matters
- Fundamental reform is required
- New standards should be quantitative and easily measured
- Indigenous Australians are entitled to expect a stronger, national-level protection of their cultural heritage
- The Act in its current form does not place adequate value in Indigenous Australian’s traditional knowledge and views
- The state and territory regulatory frameworks overlap with the EPBC Act and a tangible effort to streamline these processes should be undertaken
- Data is not adequately available for decision makers
- The Act should (and does not) require proponents to exhaust options to avoid negative impacts on the environment
- The proposed reforms encompassed in the Interim Report are necessary to ensure ecologically sustainable development and the effective protection of Australia’s iconic places and heritage.
These dot points are just some of the key findings; you can download the Interim Report here.
To have your say you can head to this link here to provide feedback via a survey form. You might ask “How is filling out a survey going to help?”. Well, Professor Graeme Samuel is eager to understand your views and ideas in response to the release of the Interim Report. Your feedback will be taken into consideration prior to the release of the final report in October 2020.