Submissions Open for Review into Agriculture and the CTH Environment Protection and Conservation Act

Tuesday 8 May 2018 @ 10.16 a.m. | Legal Research

In March 2018 the Minister for Agriculture and Water, The Hon David Littleproud MP, and the Minister for the Environment and Energy, The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, announced that Dr Wendy Craik would be undertaking an independent review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (the “Act”) and how it interacts with Australian agriculture. In particular the review focuses on reducing red-tape as well as assisting farmers to meet the requirements of the Act.

Dr Craik announced on Monday, 7 May 2018, that she would be consulting with industry stakeholders, farmers and environmental non-government organisations until Friday 15 June 2018. She will also be receiving written submissions from all interested stakeholders during this period.

In a media release of 7 May 2018, Dr Craik stated:

“Farmers are important stewards of our land and possess local understanding of their environment, including the specific trees, grasslands and species found there.

However, feedback suggests many landholders are not always clear on the obligations that some proposed agricultural activities carry under the Australian Government’s main environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

To address this, an independent review is looking for farmers’ views to help the Australian Government streamline and improve the way it regulates and communicates landholder responsibilities under the EPBC Act.

The independent review is specifically seeking to gather the views of farmers, industry groups and other stakeholders to better understand how the Act interacts with the agriculture sector, and to seek ways to improve regulation and help landholders meet the Act’s requirements."

The Review

The independent review into the interaction between agriculture and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 follows the Regulatory Maturity Project which was conducted in 2015 and 2016 for the purpose of establishing and maintaining the position of the Department as a contemporary, mature and trusted regulator. The final report for the Regulatory Maturity Project was released in April 2016.

The terms of reference for the current review were released in March 2018. The terms of reference outline the purpose of the review as examining “the interaction between the EPBC Act and the agriculture and food production sector, in order to identify regulatory and non-regulatory improvements to assist this sector while maintaining environmental standards.”

The terms of reference further outline the importance of maintaining a competitive agriculture sector for the Australian economy:

“The Australian Government recognises that the sustainable development of a productive and internationally competitive agriculture and food production sector is vital to our economy and regional communities, and is committed to reducing barriers to its growth.”

As per the terms of reference, the review will:

  1. Undertake targeted consultation to identify concerns and areas of potential efficiencies.
  2. Provide an overview of the appropriateness of current regulatory settings of the EPBC Act in regard to their impact on the agriculture and food production sector with consideration to the objects of the EPBC Act.
  3. Outline options to improve how the agriculture and food production sector is regulated under the EPBC Act and reduce the regulatory burden faced by farmers and applicants, including but not limited to:
    1. making recommendations in relation to environmental referrals, assessment and approval requirements, and listing and delisting processes for species and ecological communities under the EPBC Act;
    2. identifying opportunities for harmonisation between the EPBC Act and each state and territories’ native vegetation management regimes; and
    3. identifying opportunities to enhance the EPBC Act to support agriculture and food production to take advantage of domestic and international demand for sustainable agriculture, such as certification schemes and ‘clean and green’ foods.
  4. In making recommendations and advising on new initiatives, take into account the objects of the EPBC Act.
  5. As far as possible, consider the costs and benefits of the recommendations as required by the Australian Government. See guidance at pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/regulation/independent-reviews-and-ris-process-guidance-note.
  6. Consider relevant material including the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on the Regulation of Australian Agriculture, the Agriculture Competitiveness White Paper and Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia.
  7. Provide a report to Government by mid 2018.

Consultation

Submissions for the review opened on Monday, 7 May 2018. The focus of the consultation period was outlined on the review website:

“Dr Craik invites written submissions from farmers and any interested stakeholders to inform her review how the farmers interact with the EPBC Act, particularly as it relates to:

  • Helping farmers understand when their activity does (or does not) require referral, assessment or approval under the EPBC Act.
  • Ensuring environmental regulation is applied to farmers in a practical way, considering on-ground farming practices and minimising any duplication or conflict with state or local laws.
  • Examining how farmers are informed and able to participate in the listing process for species and ecological communities, and the implications for them when a listing occurs.”

For further information on the consultation or on making a submission, visit the Department of the Environment and Energy's consultation website.

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