THE Federal Government has announced it will implement a new independent Environmental Protection Agency, which will be responsible for assessing and approving development applications.
Speaking at a Queensland Conservation Council event yesterday, environment minister Tanya Plibersek said the government was undertaking the biggest environmental reform agenda in a generation. She was responding to a report by Professor Graeme Samuel which labelled the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act outdated.
“The EPA will be established as an independent organisation with a statutory appointed chair, it will have its own budget, it will be responsible for both assessing and approving development applications, and it will also be responsible for making sure that any conditions are implemented,” she said in a press conference.
“It will have a number of other responsibilities that are currently undertaken by the Department of Environment. And of course, one of the reasons that we’re establishing it in this way is to make sure that it is transparent, that it is answerable to our democracy that people can see the decisions that are being made, and why they’re being made and how they are being made, and can have confidence that there is integrity in the system.”
What will it mean for agricultural management?
The exact workings and responsibilities of the new agency remain unclear with Ms Plibersek highlighting that changes to environmental legislation is complex and consequential. National Farmers’ Federation CEO Tony Mahar said land clearing laws need to stay in the hands of state governments.
“We note continued misleading commentary regarding the scale and impact of land clearing in Australia,” Mr Mahar said.
“It’s important to emphasise that state governments have well developed frameworks for managing land clearing. It would be a mistake to duplicate this federally.”
Mr Mahar said a new advisory group set up to provide assurance and advice to the minister was a cause for concern.
“We need to understand how the EPA’s new advisory body will add value over and above the multiple advisory groups that already exist under the Act, and indeed the role of the proposed EPA,” he said.
“We will seek further clarity on the role, power and representation on this group during consultations, but for now it remains a concern. If implemented, it must have appropriate farm sector representation.”
Source: NFF and Tanya Plibersek