Regional planning will help governments, communities and businesses to better protect, restore, and manage Australia’s environment.
It will deliver environment, economic and social outcomes that are driven by the needs of communities and their environment.
Regional plans will provide clear guidance on areas for protection, which areas are appropriate for development and which areas need caution. The plans will provide information and support decisions about where projects should and should not happen.
Regional Planning Initiative
The Regional Planning Initiative focuses on improving environmental outcomes by providing clear information to decision makers, project proponents and communities.
The initiative will enable better and faster decision-making under our primary national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The independent review of the EPBC Act highlighted the need for the Australian Government to change how it handles development project approvals. It recommended making an assessment of the cumulative impact of development at a landscape scale to protect, restore and manage the environment, instead of relying on project-by-project approvals.
As part of its response to the review, the Australian Government committed $29.3 million to start work on regional planning. Priority areas for consideration will be those experiencing development pressure and with high biodiversity values.
By taking a national approach to regional planning, we will:
- consider cumulative impacts and manage threats to biodiversity at a regional scale
- provide clear guidance on what areas need protection, which areas are appropriate for development, and which areas need caution provide certainty about regional biodiversity and heritage priorities
- contribute to protecting 30% of our land and 30% of our oceans by 2030
- inform targeted government and private investment in environmental restoration and management.
Regional planning will help improve environmental, social, and economic outcomes across Australia.
We will consider environmental pressures and outcomes upfront when regional plans are developed, rather than project-by-project.
There is already a lot of existing information and priorities identified through state level planning, such as Natural Resource Management (NRM) plans and catchment management plans.
We will build on these initiatives and work with states and territories to align approval processes, programs and funding with the objectives of the regional plans.
Plans will be underpinned by protective National Environmental Standards and will have ongoing monitoring, evaluation and review.
Regional plans and National Environmental Standards will provide project proponents with certainty, giving clear indicators of environmental priority and thresholds, including an early ‘no’ where an area is a conservation priority.
The Queensland government has agreed to develop initial regional plans with the Australian government.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian and Queensland governments was signed on 8 December 2022.
Developing regional plans will be a highly collaborative process. We will involve the local community, all levels of government, business, natural resource management organisations, environmental NGOs, First Nations people, and technical experts.
This collaboration will be key in developing regional objectives and outcomes, with a focus on the unique priorities of each region.
First Nations peoples’ values, aspirations, knowledge, and science will be incorporated into the objectives of every regional plan. We will embed local First Nations cultural knowledge in each plan to ensure appropriate methods of caring for Country are fostered throughout the planning process.
We have already consulted with many stakeholders and experts.
We held a Regional Planning Initiative roundtable with industry, not-for-profit, and research sector stakeholders in August 2022.
We are working with other state and territory governments to find additional locations for regional planning.
These locations may include areas that focus on urban growth, renewable energy zones, and future development.
It is an aim of the initiative for the first regional locations to have a variety of ecosystem types.
A digital platform for regional plans will be developed and implemented to provide up-to-date information on sustainable development and nature-positive objectives.