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Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
ISSN 1441 9335
Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (continued)
Appendix 5. ANAO Report Recommendations
The ANAO's recommendations are set out below. Priority should be given to recommendations 1, 4 and 5.
In order to improve the consistency and quality of referrals made under the EPBC Act, the ANAO recommends that Environment Australia (now known as the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage):
- finalises as soon as practicable, the sectoral guidance on the EPBC Act;
- further encourages proponents to seek advice from the Department before lodging referrals and investigate measures by which this could be achieved;
- considers the introduction of an accreditation scheme for consultants submitting applications under the EPBC Act; and
- considers providing guidance on what would be an acceptable standard of information required, for example in fauna or flora surveys, as part of a referral under the EPBC Act.
In order to address the risks from referrals of staged developments that may circumvent the objectives of the Act, the ANAO recommends that Environment Australia revise the application form and guidelines to make more explicit:
- the requirements for proponents to disclose staged developments; and
- the assessment criteria that will apply in these circumstances.
In order to improve awareness of the requirements of the EPBC Act, the ANAO recommends that Environment Australia establishes appropriate mechanisms for enhanced communication and knowledge sharing through:
- public reporting on the results of investigations, trends, lessons learned and compliance activity in progress, via the EPBC website; and
- the establishment of networks with Commonwealth, state and local government agencies to ensure that information on projects that should be referred is received early enough for compliance and enforcement action to be considered.
The ANAO recommends that, to strengthen monitoring and review arrangements and provide assurance as to compliance with any conditions of approval, Environment Australia:
- introduces a formal notification and reporting system as part of the approval, which requires proponents to advise Environment Australia of the progress of relevant actions;
- considers an accreditation scheme and/or delegations for Commonwealth agencies, such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, to enable third parties to sign-off that conditions have been complied with by proponents;
- modifies the EPBC database to allow for consistent tracking of activities post assessment for the purposes of compliance and enforcement; and
- provides advice to proponents subject to the 'particular manner' provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, on their continuing obligations to ensure that they manage their actions so that there is no impact of national environmental significance or alternatively, if this becomes unavoidable, a further referral is made to the Commonwealth.
The ANAO recommends that, to emphasise its capacity to enforce the provisions of the EPBC Act, Environment Australia:
- finalises as soon as practical, compliance and enforcement procedures and guidelines;
- ensures that there are timely and effective responses to all potential breaches of the EPBC Act; and
- includes, in the guidance to Commonwealth agencies, appropriate advice in regard to contractors and their obligations to comply with the provisions of the EPBC Act.
In order to enhance the quality of public reporting on the administration of the EPBC Act, the ANAO recommends that Environment Australia should:
- include analysis of challenges, risks and priorities for the future in its annual reports; and
- enhance information on progress being made towards the achievement of the EPBC Act's objectives.