New environment laws passed, should ease burden on business

coat_of_armsAustralia's environmental protection laws have had their first major overhaul and business should be a winner - environmental assessments should become faster and fairer.

The Federal Government is reforming Australia’s national environmental law to better protect the nation’s environment and keep pace with economic growth.

Environment Minister Tony Burke today outlined a major refresh of Australia's environmental laws.

The reform is the first overhaul the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC)Act 1999 since it was created, and includes the government’s response to an independent review of the Act by Allan Hawke.

Federal Environment
Minister Tony Burke

The review provided 71 recommendations, 56 which have been agreed to fully or in part by the government and 15 which have not been accepted.

The reforms outline better environmental protection focusing on whole regions and ecosystems, and faster environmental assessments. They also outline a consistent national approach to environmental impact assessments that removes duplication, cuts red tape and provides better upfront guidance on legislation requirements, with more long-term certainty and transparency.

The environmental reforms include:

- a more proactive approach to protecting Australia’s environment through more strategic assessments and regional environmental plans;

- identifying and protecting ecosystems of national significance under the EPBC Act through regional environment plans, strategic assessments or conservation agreements to protect the most significant and healthy ecosystems before they are threatened or degraded;

- a more co-operative approach to developing environmental standards by establishing a new National Centre for Cooperation on Environment and Development that will bring together industry, scientists, non-government organisations and governments to work together on environmental standards, guidelines and procedures;

- a more streamlined assessment process to cut red tape for business and improve timeframes for decision making, including an option for decisions on proposals within 35 business days, if all required information is provided; and

- new national standards for accrediting environmental impact assessments and approvals to better align Commonwealth and state systems.

For more information on the environmental law reforms go to www.environment.gov.au/epbc/reform.

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