Department of the Environment

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Publications archive - Annual reports


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2001-02

Environment Australia, 2002
ISSN 1441-9335

Reports - Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999


The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 continues to deliver significant benefits for all Australians, the international community and future generations. It does this by protecting matters of national environmental significance -namely, internationally important wetlands, migratory species, nationally threatened species and ecological communities, World Heritage, and our marine environment, and by protecting the environment from nuclear actions. In addition, the Act provides protection for the environment in relation to proposals involving Commonwealth land and regulates the activities of Commonwealth agencies that might significantly affect the environment. During 2001-02, the Minister (or his delegate) decided that 95 proposed actions should be subject to environmental assessment and approval under the Act. Twenty-six actions were approved during the year with appropriate conditions to protect matters of national environment significance or the environment in relation to Commonwealth land or activities.

The Department continued to improve its adherence to timeframes in the Act for environmental assessment and approval.Decisions on referrals met statutory timeframes on 94 per cent of occasions, up from 83 per cent in 2000-01. Approval decisions met the timeframes 96 per cent of the time, compared to 75 per cent in 2000-01. This performance ensured that industry benefited from efficient and timely processes.

Through the Act, the Commonwealth has become involved in the assessment and approval of many more development proposals of truly national significance than ever before, usually in cooperation with the states and territories. Further, proposals of only state or local significance have been more appropriately left solely to the states and territories.

The Department also devoted considerable resources to implementing the biodiversity conservation provisions in the Act. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee continued to take an active role in reviewing nominations for the listing of nationally threatened species,ecological communities and key threatening processes and providing advice on the making of recovery plans. Forty-six amendments were made to the list of threatened species and one to the list of key threatening processes. Sixty-one recovery plans were adopted. The Government made a commitment that a recovery plan would be in force by 2004 for every endangered or critically endangered species listed as at September 2001. Based on the committee's advice the Minister adopted the threat abatement plan for 'Dieback caused by the root-rot fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi )'.

During the year, Australia lodged a nomination of Purnululu National Park in Western Australia for inclusion on the World Heritage List, and the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands in Victoria was designated as a Ramsar wetland.

In January 2002, the Act was further enhanced by new wildlife trade provisions and associated Regulations, ensuring that trade in wildlife is managed in an ecologically sustainable way, and providing protection for species threatened by trade. These complemented the existing biodiversity conservation provisions in the Act strengthening the Act’s role in providing an integrated framework for biodiversity conservation.

In June 2002 the Government reintroduced into Parliament a heritage legislation package that, if passed by the Parliament, will amend the Act to significantly enhance the conservation of Australia’s heritage places. The package provides, among other things, for places of national heritage value to become a new matter of national environmental significance and for better protection of heritage places in Commonwealth areas.

By and large, industry has reacted positively to the administration of the Act. Most of the industries with greater exposure to the Act are composed of reasonably large companies used to complying with community expectations that their impacts on matters of national environmental significance should be subject to appropriate assessment and approval. While there have been individual instances of decisions being disputed by industry, feedback indicates that the Act generally offers business greater certainty and a more streamlined approach than the previous ad hoc regime.

It is also true, however, that the farming sector and the aquaculture industry have expressed concerns about the operation of the Act. Environment Australia is addressing these concerns in a variety of ways including engaging directly with the relevant industry bodies on processes and guidelines to assist their members to comply with the requirements of the Act. New processes for consultation on nominations for listed threatened species, ecological communities and key threatening processes have also been developed to improve the transparency of the process and to ensure all interested individuals and organisations have the opportunity to participate. It should also be noted that, notwithstanding the controversy, the actual impact of the Act on farming and aquaculture activities has been limited. During 2001-02, there were only four determinations of controlled actions involving agriculture and forestry and nine in relation to aquaculture projects.

Additional funds have been provided to Environment Australia in the 2002-03 Commonwealth Budget for administration of the Act and we are looking to increase our community education and communication effort in the coming year. In particular, we will be looking to:

In 2002-03, the Department will also be giving a high priority to: