New funding to advance environmental reform
The Australian Government is investing $128.5 million to deliver better environmental outcomes and streamline environmental approvals.
The second Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) was released in January 2021. The review found that the EPBC Act required significant reform. We've committed to a pathway for reform so that our laws continue to protect our nationally significant animals, plants, habitats and places.
The EPBC Act is Australia's main national environmental legislation. It helps us to protect and manage nationally significant animals, plants, habitats and places. We call these things 'protected matters'.
An independent review of the EPBC Act is required every 10 years. Professor Graeme Samuel AC led the second independent review, which was released in January 2021.
The Samuel Review found that the EPBC Act needed significant reform. We've started a program of reform to make improvements to the Act.
Pathway and timeline for reforms
We'll be making reforms to the EPBC Act in stages, beginning with the priority areas for improvement that the Samuel Review recommended.
You can learn more about the first reform stages, and when we'll be engaging on further reforms, by reading our:
The first stages of reform start with:
- a new single touch approval system
- creating new National Environmental Standards
- setting up an Environment Assurance Commissioner
- developing a pilot regional plan
- improving the protection of Indigenous cultural heritage.
Single touch approvals
The Australian Government invested $10.6 million in streamlining environmental approvals. Single touch approvals will enable state and territory agencies to approve certain projects.
This will reduce duplication and speed up approvals.
National Environmental Standards
National environmental standards are a central recommendation of the Samuel review. We've developed the first national environmental standard for matters of national environmental significance.
These new standards will:
- make the requirements of the EPBC Act clear
- support the single touch approvals system
- set clear environmental outcomes
- ensure the same rules apply to all decision makers.
This standard will be made in law after Parliament passes amendments to the EPBC Act.
- the progress of these amendments
- the final draft of the National Environmental Standard (Matters of national environmental significance) 2021 (PDF - 360.29 KB) | (DOCX - 118.97 KB)
Environment Assurance Commissioner
The Australian Government is also investing $9 million to establish and operate an Environment Assurance Commissioner (the Commissioner).
The Commissioner will independently monitor and audit environmental assessment and approval systems. This includes the operation of approval bilateral agreements under single touch approval arrangements.
The Commissioner will be:
- independent of the government and not subject to directions from the Environment minister
- housed within the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and supported by dedicated resources.
We'll establish the Commissioner before the first single touch approval agreement is in place.
Regional planning pilot
The Australian Government has committed $2.7 million to develop a pilot regional plan in partnership with a state or territory.
A regional plan will:
- identify and protect important environmental assets
- help business to identify appropriate areas for development
- give business more clarity on what they need to do for environmental approvals.
Partnering to protect Indigenous cultural heritage
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage is an important treasure – it is part of Australia’s national identity.
Despite this, Indigenous cultural heritage is being frequently damaged, disturbed and displaced.
In partnership with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance, we are working to modernise and strengthen our Indigenous cultural heritage protections. On 29 November 2021, Commonwealth Minister for the Environment the Hon Sussan Ley MP joined with Traditional Owners to sign the historic agreement with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance to reform protections that preserve our cultural treasures for future generations.
Find out more about Indigenous cultural heritage.
Major project approvals
While we undertake reform, we are also focused on keeping EPBC Act decisions on track and on time. We've identified 15 major projects that:
- are of national significance
- will provide more than $72 billion in public and private investment
- support tens of thousands of jobs.
We're working with states and territories to reduce assessment and decision times for these projects.
On-time key decisions
We're committed to meeting statutory timeframes, and we made 99% of key decisions on time in the March quarter of 2021. This reduces costly delays to business.
The Australian Government has committed $54.5 million over 3 years towards this work.