Our response to the Independent Review of the EPBC Act is now available.
It sets out the government’s commitment to reform Australia’s environmental laws to better protect, restore and manage our unique environment.
Read our response: Nature Positive Plan: better for the environment, better for business.
Our reform priorities
The Australian Government is reforming our national environmental law – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
In formally responding to Professor Samuel’s review, we are identifying the priorities that will guide our government’s reform agenda.
These reforms will be guided by 3 essential principles:
- delivering better environmental protection and laws that are nature positive
- speeding up decisions and making it easier for companies to do the right thing
- restoring integrity and trust to systems and environmental laws.
National Environmental Standards
National Environmental Standards are the centrepiece of our reforms.
Standards will improve environmental protections and guide decision-making by setting clear, demonstrable outcomes for regulated activities under the new Act.
The initial standards for development will cover:
- Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES)
- First Nations engagement and participation in decision-making
- regional planning
- community engagement
- environmental offsets.
The standards for First Nations engagement and participation in decision making will ensure that First Nations interests and cultural heritage are identified early and can be protected for all time.
An independent Environment Protection Agency
The government has committed to establishing an independent Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to provide assurance and restore public trust in our national environmental law.
The EPA will be resourced and empowered to ensure compliance and enforcement under the new EPBC Act.
It will be responsible for project assessments, decisions, post-approvals and for assuring the operations of states, territories and other Commonwealth decisions-makers under accreditation arrangements.
Improving environmental data and information
A new Data Division will improve the availability, access and quality of environmental information to underpin these reforms.
It will also ensure we can track, understand and adapt to changes in our environment.
The Regional Planning Initiative is a key government commitment to help restore, protect and manage the environment. Regional planning will enable better and faster decision-making under the EPBC Act.
Learn more about the Regional Planning Initiative.
Environmental offsets reform
The government will reform offset arrangements to ensure they deliver gains for the environment and reduce delays for project developers.
A National Environmental Standard for environmental offsets will be made under law to provide certainty and confidence in its application.
Improving conservation planning arrangements
An improved national conservation planning framework for wildlife and places will be underpinned by National Environmental Standards. It will prioritise on-the-ground action based on the latest science.
Working with First Nations partners
The role of First Nations partnerships will be enhanced to give First Nations peoples a stronger voice in our system of environmental protection, including new standalone First Nations cultural heritage protection laws.
In 2022, the Minister for the Environment and Water extended and expanded our Partnership Agreement with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance, to work in a genuine co-design partnership with the Alliance and communities to reform our cultural heritage laws.
Learn more about the partnership agreement with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance.
We will be working closely with stakeholders and partners during the first half of 2023 to develop a package of new national environmental legislation to implement our reform priorities.
Information on current consultation processes is available on Have Your Say.