Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
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The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is an Act of the Parliament of Australia that provides a framework for protection of the Australian environment, including its biodiversity and its natural and culturally significant places. Enacted on 17 July 2000, it established a range of processes to help protect and promote the recovery of threatened species and ecological communities, and preserve significant places from decline.
The EPBC Act established the use of Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations, which have provided for the issuing of approvals and permits for a range of activities on Commonwealth land and land affecting the Commonwealth. For example, commercial picking of wildflowers is regulated under the EPBC Act, and cannot be undertaken without an appropriate permit. Failure to comply with the Act can result in penalties including remediation of damage, court injunctions, and criminal and civil penalties.
The Act is administered by the Department of the Environment. On 16 October 2013 the Environment Minister announced that the Government had approved a framework for a "one stop shop" environmental approval process to accredit state planning systems under national environmental law, to create a single environmental assessment and approval process for nationally protected matters.
The Act identifies seven matters of national environmental significance:
- World Heritage properties
- National heritage places including overseas places of historic significance
- Wetlands of international importance (Ramsar wetlands)
- Threatened species and ecological communities
- Migratory species
- Commonwealth marine areas
- Nuclear actions (including uranium mining & building of nuclear waste repositories)
Lists of threatened species are drawn up under the act, for instance Threatened fauna of Australia, and these lists are the primary reference to threatened species in Australia.
As an Act of the Commonwealth (federal) Parliament, it relies for its Constitutional validity upon the legislative powers of the Parliament granted by the Australian Constitution, which does not expressly refer to the environment. As such, key provisions of the EPBC Act are largely based on the following treaties:
- World Heritage Convention – The Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1975;
- the Ramsar Convention – The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat 1975;
- the Convention on Biological Diversity 1992;
- JAMBA – Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement;
- CAMBA – China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement;
- Bonn Convention – Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals;
- CITES – The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 1976.
A review of the Act and actions taken under the act released by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) in March 2007, the audit is entitled "The Conservation and Protection of National Threatened Species and Ecological Communities". The audit widely criticised the Department of the Environment and Water Resources for inaction with respect to the EPBC; key findings of the audit include:
- that the Department has failed to keep the list of threatened species sufficiently up to date and has failed to prepare recovery plans
- that there are still inconsistencies between the federal and state and territory lists of threatened species
- that due to partial or incorrect information there is a risk incorrect decisions regarding conservation may be made
- that the department has been denied funds necessary to meet their obligations under the act by the Government on four occasions.
The Hawke Report
On 31 October 2008 the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts commissioned an independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Australian Government's central piece of environmental legislation. Section 522A of the EPBC Act requires it to be reviewed every 10 years from its commencement.
The review was undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke.The aim of the report is to review the performance of the Act and, consistent with the objective of protecting the environment and biological diversity and maintain ecological processes, to recommend reforms that:
- promote the sustainability of Australia's economic development
- reduce and simplify the regulatory burden
- ensure activities under the Act represent the most efficient and *effective ways of achieving desired environmental outcomes
- are based on an effective federal arrangement.
The "Final Report" was delivered to the Minister on 30 October 2009 and publicly released on 21 December 2009.
- Endangered Species Protection Act 1993
- Australian Wildlife Protection Act 1998
- Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act 1997, which established the Natural Heritage Trust, providing funding
- Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (TSP Act), Tasmania
- Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, Western Australia
- Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988) (FFG Act), Victoria
- National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, South Australia
- Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, New South Wales (TSC Act)
- Nature Conservation Act 1980, Australian Capital Territory
- Nature Conservation Act, Queensland
- Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (TPWCA), Northern Territory
- Environment Assessment Act, Northern Territory
- Bonn Convention
- Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council (ANZECC) (1991 to 2001)
- Biodiversity Hotspots program
- Natural Heritage Trust
- Ramsar Convention
- List of Ramsar sites in Australia
- Regional Forest Agreement
- Threatened fauna of Australia
- UNESCO World Heritage Convention at World heritage site
- Australian Government, Department of the Environment: http://australia.gov.au/directories/australia/environment, Retrieved 20 February 2014
- "'One stop shop' for environmental approvals", Australian Government, Department of the Environment: http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/about-us/legislation/environment-protection-and-biodiversity-conservation-act-1999/one-stop, Retrieved on 20 February 2014
- Murphy, Katharine (2007-04-09). "Limited scrutiny on nuclear projects". The Age (Melbourne). p. 3.
- "The Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Australian Constitution" (Word Document (.doc)). National Farmers’ Federation. 9 February 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- Independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Environment.gov.au. Retrieved on 2012-05-03.
- The Australian Environment Act: Report of the Independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – Final report. Environment.gov.au. Retrieved on 2012-05-03.
- "About the EPBC Act". Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 2006-07-11.
- ANAO Audit Report No.31 2006–07. The Conservation and Protection of National Threatened Species and Ecological Communities
- Audit slams slow Environment Department, The Age, 29 March 2007
- EPBC Act list
- The Act is available at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/epabca1999588/
- The Hawke Report is available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/review/publications/final-report.html