Bushfires and other natural disasters have an impact on Australia's environment. This may affect your project or approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Find out what a natural disaster means for your approval or referral.
Disaster recovery and the EPBC Act
When a bushfire or flood happens, it may affect protected matters.
This means it may, in turn, affect a project in the affected area that you've:
- asked us to assess
- received an approval for.
If your project or proposed project is in an affected area, you may need to take extra steps under the EPBC Act to:
- gain an approval
- change your action or project
- change your current approval conditions.
To take these steps, you might need to use:
- the Protected Matters Search Tool
- the Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) Database
- new surveys and data
You can ask us for help, whatever the stage of your project.
Activities that might need to be assessed
Environmental law isn't meant to slow down a natural disaster cleanup, especially recovery work. But you still need to consider the EPBC Act in situations such as:
- building a new road through a listed threatened ecological community, to replace a road washed away during the flooding.
- bulldozing debris in a declared World Heritage property or the known critical habitat of a listed threatened species.
- constructing substantial new fire breaks in habitat for nationally threatened species.
- dredging a heavily silted port after floods.
Recovery activities that need assessment can be fast-tracked.
There are also rules around managing bushfire recovery in line with the EPBC Act.
Complying with the EPBC Act after a bushfire or natural disaster looks different depending on whether you're still planning your project or we've already approved it.
Proposed action in an affected area
If your proposed project is in an area affected by a bushfire or another natural disaster, there are things you may need to do. These might include:
- identifying any at-risk species your project could affect
- checking any available data, maps and surveys of the area.
To check your obligations, contact our Referrals Gateway team on:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: +61 1800 423 135.
If you referred your project to us before the bushfire or natural disaster happened, contact your assessment officer. They can help you understand how the disaster might affect your project.
Approved action in an affected area
If you already have an approval for your action and a natural disaster occurs, it may lead to a breach of your approval conditions.
You might, for example, need to ask for:
- a variation to a condition of your approval
- a change to your approved action, which will require a new referral.
To find out what you need to do in your situation, contact our Post-Approvals team on:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: +61 1800 423 135.
The EPBC Act allows the Environment minister to make exemptions in the national interest. This means changing or removing certain conditions around an action or approval.
For example, during the 2019-20 bushfires in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia had exemptions granted for firefighting and fire prevention activities in protected areas.
We publish a list of exemptions and their reasons.
Get in touch
For more information about your obligations after a bushfire or other natural disaster, contact us by:
- online enquiry form
- Phone: 1800 423 135 between 9 am and 5 pm Canberra time