BURKE TO REVAMP AUSTRALIAS NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT LAWS, BUT CONSERVATIONISTS ARE VERY NERVOUS
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has today announced the Government’s plans to amend their principal tool for protecting the Australian environment – the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
HSI strongly supports many of the Minister’s intentions to improve the law, but notes some major disappointments and concerns.
On the plus side the Minister will give himself a new power of veto over impacts on National Parks and vulnerable ecological communities, create a new protective category for “ecosystems of national significance”, and improve the identification of critical habitat for threatened species.
On the negative side the Minister is refusing to reinstate the right of the public to appeal the merits of his decisions to harm wildlife: rights that were repealed by the Coalition in 2006 to outcry from the ALP in opposition.
Extremely concerning is the Minister's plan to devolve his approval powers to State government. The Federal Environment Minister is entrusted to look after matters of national environmental significance, and he should not shirk this responsibility. Among things to be wary of are the Minister’s plans to “streamline” and remove “red tape” from decision-making processes.
“Quite frankly critical habitats for threatened species need to be wrapped up in a lot more red tape. In fact, if we are to avoid extinctions, the Minister needs to install clauses into the EPBC Act that flash a big red light to development that diminishes these critical places”, said HSI Senior Program Nicola Beynon.
The new protective category for “ecosystems of national significance” has the potential to provide powerful protection for Australia’s iconic landscape. To show that he means business, we will be encouraging the Minister to be ready with a list of ecosystems to protect as soon as the amendments are enacted.