The federal government has released its ‘Nature Positive Plan: Better for the Environment, Better for Business’ in response to Professor Graeme Samuel’s independent review of Australia’s 1999 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The response commits the federal government to establishing a new environmental protection agency (EPA) with the power to make decisions about whether developments that affect the environment can or cannot proceed – which was a role previously held by the federal environment minister.

The new EPA will also be responsible for compliance and enforcement of the law, project assessments, decisions and post-approval matters.

National environmental standards 

New national environmental standards will underpin all the EPA’s decisions. The government has committed to developing these standards based on:

  • Matters of national environmental significance
  • First Nations engagement and participation in decision-making
  • Community engagement and consultation
  • Regional planning
  • Environmental offsets

All conservation plans, policies and strategies developed under the environmental laws will also need to be consistent with the new national standards.

Matters of national environmental significance will be the first standard to be developed and will govern the protection of Australia’s most important places such as world heritage areas.

When will the overhaul take place?

The federal government plans to introduce a bill into parliament before the end of 2023.

Blaine Hattie is a business lawyer and principal at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

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