Professor Graeme Samuel’s independent review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 was publicly released in January 2021 to strong support from the natural resource management sector.
The review presents compelling evidence that the Act, in its current form, is ineffective at enabling protection of Australia’s declining natural environment. Environmental and heritage responsibilities are not being cohesively and systematically managed by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. This lack of integration between jurisdictions, along with the Act’s inability to address cumulative impacts on the environment, prompt a call for fundamental reform of the legislation.
South West Catchments Council’s Program Manager Threatened Species, Brian Chambers, said: “The EPBC Act Review clearly states what many people across the environmental sector in Australia have seen for many years: the current EPBC act does not adequately protect the Australian environment and its unique biodiversity”.
The report presents 38 recommendations for reform, including:
- New, legally enforceable National Environmental Standards, with clear outcomes and integration into national and regional environmental plans:
- A new independent Environment Assurance Commissioner responsible for reporting on progress against the Standards;
- A new Office of Compliance and Enforcement with modern regulatory powers;
- Funding and regulatory levers to ensure delivery of outcomes;
- New mechanisms to leverage private-sector investment aligned with national outcomes;
- A new overarching advisory committee, the Ecologically Sustainable Development Committee.
SWCC welcomes these recommendations. “The primary recommendations for legally enforceable National Environmental Standards and strong independent oversight of Commonwealth, State and Territory implementation of the Act are desperately needed to ensure that our country’s unique natural heritage is protected for future generations,” Mr Chambers said.
“The recommendations made by the review will, if implemented in full, dramatically improve the protection of Australia’s environment. We encourage our current government to prioritise the protection of our environment by reforming the legislation and making the necessary changes so clearly articulated in Samuel’s review.”
The full review of the EPBC Act is available here.