Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

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Independent review of the

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Interim Report

Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Interim Report

© Commonwealth of Australia

ISBN 978-0-9806735-1-7

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth, available from the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
GPO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2601

This interim report is available at

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Introduction 6

Chapter 2: Commonwealth Role and EPBC Act objectives 32

Chapter 3: Scope of Environmental Impact Assessment under the EPBC Act 54

Chapter 4: Environmental Impact Assessment 70

Chapter 5: Prior Authorisation and Continuing Use Exemptions 104

Chapter 6: Forestry 110

Chapter 7: Land clearance 126

Chapter 8: Climate Change 146

Chapter 9: Water Issues 159

Chapter 10: Strategic Assessments and Bioregional Planning 170

Chapter 11: Heritage 192

Chapter 12: Threatened species and ecological communities 205

Chapter 13: Biodiversity conservation, recovery planning and threats management 218

Chapter 14: Protected Areas 227

Chapter 15: Biodiversity – Marine and Fisheries 250

Chapter 16: Access to Biological Resources 254

Chapter 17: Indigenous information and involvement under the EPBC Act 257

Chapter 18: Wildlife Trade, Live Imports and Biosecurity 267

Chapter 19: Governance and Decision-making 281

Chapter 20: Review Mechanisms under the and Access to Courts 70

Chapter 21: Enforcement, Compliance, Monitoring and Audit 85

Chapter 22: Administration under the EPBC Act 91

Chapter 23: Reducing regulatory burden & streamlining processes 102

Chapter 24: Cost Recovery 106

Appendix 1: Terms of Reference 108

Appendix 2: List of Submitters 109

Appendix 3: List of Public Consultations 114

Appendix 4: International Agreements 118

Appendix 5: Acronyms and Abbreviations used in this Report 121

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background to the review

  1. The independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)was announced by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP (the Minister), on 31 October 2008.

  2. The EPBC Act Review, which is being carried out in accordance with section 522A of the Act, will examine the operation of the Act and the extent to which it is achieving its objects. The review is to be completed by 31 October 2009.

  3. The terms of reference require the review to examine the appropriateness of current matters of national environmental significance (NES) and the effectiveness of biodiversity and wildlife conservation arrangements under the Act, having regard to key Australian Government policy objectives including the following:

  • to promote the sustainability of Australia’s economic development to enhance individual and community well-being while protecting biological diversity and maintaining essential ecological processes and systems;

  • to work in partnership with the States and Territories within an effective federal arrangement;

  • to facilitate delivery of Australia’s international obligations;
  • to reduce and simplify the regulatory burden on people, businesses and organisations, while maintaining appropriate and efficient environmental standards in accordance with the Australian Government’s deregulation agenda; and

  • to ensure activities under the Act represent the most appropriate, efficient and effective ways of achieving the Government’s outcomes and objectives consistent with the Expenditure Review Principles.

  1. The terms of reference also require the review to seek input from State and Territory Governments, members of the community and industry. A copy of the terms of reference for the review is attached to this report (Appendix 1).

  2. The review is being undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke supported by a Panel comprising:

  • Professor Tim Bonyhady – Director of the Australian Centre for Environmental Law and the Centre for Climate Law and Policy at the Australian National university.

  • Professor Mark Burgman – Adrienne Clarke Chair of Botany and Director of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis at the university of Melbourne.

  • The Honourable Paul Stein AM – former judicial officer in various New South Wales courts from 1983 to 2003, including the Land and Environment Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

  • Rosemary Warnock – the former CEO of Castrol Asia Pacific and more recently CEO of the Clean Energy Council in 2008. She is currently an Executive Mentor with Merryck & Co.

Review process to date

Discussion paper

    1. On 31 October 2008, the review published a discussion paper which provided an explanation of the key provisions of the Act, a summary of how the provisions have been implemented since the Act came into effect in 2000, and posed key questions regarding the operation of the Act to help stimulate discussion on the review.
    2. The purpose of the discussion paper was to encourage input from the public into the review by inviting written submissions.

Written submissions

    1. The review’s initial invitation for written public submissions attracted a total of 212 public submissions. Submissions were received from a wide range of sectors. As noted in the Summary of Public Submissions1, many submissions received were from environmental non-government organisations (NGO) (38%), but a significant number of submissions were received from other NGOs, such as industry bodies (16%) and individuals (19%). Some submissions were from research groups or academics (8%) and individual corporations (6%). Submissions from Government bodies represented 14% of the total submissions received.

    2. A list of submitters and electronic versions of submissions that were not confidential are available at

    3. A list of submitters can also be found in Appendix 2 of this report.

Summary of Public Submissions

    1. A Summary of Public Submissions is available on the review’s website. It provides some basic information about submitter groups and common themes raised by those groups. It aims to capture, as far as possible, the common issues raised in submissions received at or before 1 May 2009 but is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the issues and comments raised with the review.

    2. This document is for information only and is not for public comment. It is available at

Targeted face-to-face consultations

    1. In addition to the written submissions received, the review held a series of targeted face to face consultations. These consultations occurred in all major capital centres throughout Australia during the period March 2009 to May 2009. Input was sought from submitters and others with an interest in the EPBC Act.

    2. The purpose of this phase of the public engagement process was to ensure broad-based input to the review.

    3. Some additional materials were received following the close of the formal submission period during face-to- face consultations. These have been considered by Dr Hawke and the Expert Panel during the preparation of this report.

    4. A list of organisations and individuals who participated in these consultations is provided at Appendix 3.


    1. One of the issues the review wished to explore was landscape-scale approaches to biodiversity protection. As part of this process, the review convened a workshop which explored issues relevant to assessing the effectiveness of the biodiversity conservation provisions in the EPBC Act. The workshop considered options for broader landscape or ecosystem approaches to biodiversity conservation.
    2. In addition to members of the expert panel, workshop attendees included the two scientific consultants to the review (Professor David Lindenmayer (ANu) and Professor Hugh Possingham (university of Queensland)) and Dr Mark Stafford-Smith (CSIRO), Dr Michael Dunlop (CSIRO), Dr Simon Ferrier (CSIRO) Associate Professor Darryl Low Choy (Griffith university), Professor Brendan Mackey (ANu), Professor David Farrier (university of Wollongong), Dr Rosemary Purdie (Threatened Species Scientific Committee), and representatives from the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and the Department of Climate Change.

Input from Statutory Committees and Government

    1. The review has obtained input from statutory committees that have an advisory role under the EPBC Act, such as the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, the Indigenous Advisory Committee and the Australian Heritage Council.

    2. The views of Australian Government agencies have been sourced via the Secretariat supporting the review. Input from particular areas of the Australian Government have been sought directly to help fill out the picture on some issues.

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