The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) protects nationally significant animals, plants, habitats and places in Australian territories. If you want to take any action on an area the Act covers, you may need approval. A self-assessment helps you understand your duties under the Act.
Knowing what we protect and regulate
If you want to take any action or complete a project in an area the EPBC Act covers, you must think about its impact on nationally significant (protected) animals, plants, habitats or places. We call these things 'protected matters'.
The Act protects 9 of these matters:
- world heritage areas
- national heritage places
- wetlands of international importance (listed under the Ramsar Convention)
- listed threatened species and ecological communities
- listed migratory species (protected under international agreements)
- Commonwealth marine areas
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
- nuclear actions (including uranium mines)
- water resources (in relation to coal seam gas development and large coal mining development).
The Act also protects the environment when actions are taken:
- on Commonwealth land or impact upon Commonwealth land
- by an Australian Government agency anywhere in the world
- that impact Commonwealth heritage places overseas.
You may need approval from the Australian Government, as well as any state, territory or local government approvals for any project that might affect these areas.
Strategic Assessments take a big-picture approach to managing and protecting matters of national environmental significance.
The Australian Government is currently undertaking several strategic assessments under section 146 of the EPBC Act.
Check if the site of your proposed action is covered by a Strategic Assessment.
Doing a self-assessment
You can use our tools to check whether your action needs to be referred for an assessment under the EPBC Act.
We call this a 'self-assessment', and it's a vital step in the assessment process. We recommend starting it as early as possible to understand what you might need to do next.
It is important to be as objective as possible. Collect enough information to make an informed judgment.
The process will take some time. How much time depends on where and what your project is, but we advise not rushing the self-assessment.
Our tools won't give you a definite answer, but you'll end up with a better idea of likely impacts.
Once you're done, keep a copy of your self-assessment. It's your record to show why you thought you did, or didn't, need to refer.
Identifying protected matters
Begin your self-assessment by checking which plants, animals, habitats or places your project might affect. If any of these plants, animals, habitats or places are protected, we call them 'protected matters'.
You can use our Protected Matters Search Tool (PMST) to check this information and generate a report.
The tool is free to use, and the report can be quite detailed. This means you'll need to set aside time to consider all possible impacts, whether:
You can also check the:
Assessing likely impacts
If you see that your project might impact one or more protected matters in your PMST report, your next step is to look at the Significant Impact Guidelines 1.1.
If you think your project might impact Commonwealth land, check Significant Impact Guidelines 1.2.
Significant Impact Guidelines 1.3 give advice about Coal seam gas and large coal mining developments— impacts on water resources.
All of these include references to other specific guidance you may need.
These resources will help you check the significance of your impacts. They will also help you understand how to avoid or reduce the significance of these impacts. For example, you might choose a different site or building design.
Again, this step can take time, so avoid rushing it. You need to look at all parts of your proposed action. For example, if it is going to be staged over a number of years, and there will be related activities and actions when the project is complete.
If you think you'll need to refer your project to us for a ministerial decision, talk to us about booking a free pre-referral meeting. Definitely request a meeting if you have read the guidelines and still aren't sure whether or not you need to refer your project.
Booking a pre-referral meeting
While a pre-referral meeting is optional, we'd really like to meet before you submit a referral application.
This gives you the chance to chat with us about the assessment and approval processes.
You'll also learn more about:
- the potential impacts of your proposal
- your obligations under the Act
- any possible costs for the referral.
The meeting is free, and you can choose to meet:
- in person at one of our offices
- via videoconference
- over the phone.
To book a pre-referral meeting:
- email firstname.lastname@example.org
- phone 1800 423 135
- post a letter to:
Referrals Gateway and Business Systems
Governance and Reform Branch
Environment Approvals Division
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
GPO Box 858
CANBERRA ACT 2601