An action is defined broadly in the EPBC Act and includes: a project, a development, an undertaking, an activity or a series of activities, or an alteration of any of these things. A lawful continuation of an existing use is not an action. A decision by a government body to grant an authorisation (for example, a permit or licence) or to provide funding is not an action.
Actions include, but are not limited to: construction, expansion, alteration or demolition of buildings, structures, infrastructure or facilities; storage or transport of hazardous materials; waste disposal; earthworks; impoundment, extraction and diversion of water; research activities; vegetation clearance; military exercises and use of military equipment; and sale or lease of land.
Who can refer an action?
A person proposing to take an action can make a referral. A state, territory or Australian Government Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts (the Minister) or government agency that is aware of a proposed action can make a referral, if that Minister or agency has administrative responsibilities relating to the action. The Minister may request a person to make a referral.
If a referral is made by a Minister or government agency, the Minister will inform the person proposing to take the action and invite them to provide him or her with further information.
A method of assessing the likely impact of a controlled action. The choice of approach depends on the significance of the likely impact, the complexity of the action and the degree of public concern.
A bilateral agreement is an agreement between the Commonwealth and a state or self-governing territory, which either accredits certain environmental impact assessment processes of that state or territory (an assessment bilateral) or delegates to a state or self-governing territory the authority to decide whether to approve an action.
Under an assessment bilateral agreement, the Australian Government Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts remains responsible for deciding whether an action requires assessment and whether to approve an action.
A proposed action that is likely to have a significant impact on: a matter of national environmental significance; the environment of Commonwealth land (even if taken outside Commonwealth land); or the environment anywhere in the world (if the action is undertaken by the Commonwealth).
The matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act which the proposed action may have a significant impact on are known as the controlling provisions.
Matters of national environmental significance
There are eight matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act. Sometimes referred to as NES matters.
Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 (EPIP Act) and the EPBC Act
The EPIP Act was repealed and replaced by the EPBC Act. The EPBC Act, and the related Environmental Reform (Consequential Provisions) Act 1999, established transitional arrangements between the old legislation and the EPBC Act.
Actions approved before 16 July 2000
An action did not require approval under the EPBC Act if it received all necessary environmental approvals under State, Territory and Commonwealth laws before 16 July 2000. It did not matter if the action had not commenced before this date.
Actions assessed or being assessed under EPIP before 16 July 2000
An action was not required to be referred for approval under the EPBC Act if, before 16 July 2000:
- it had been assessed under the EPIP Act; or
- it was being assessed under the EPIP Act at the level of an environmental impact statement or public environment report.
The assessment under EPIP had to be completed by 16 July 2002, or the action may have been required to be referred for approval under the EPBC Act.
Actions designated under the EPIP Act, but assessment had not begun before 16 July 2000
If an action was designated under the EPIP Act before 16 July 2000, but a decision had not been made in relation to the assessment approach to be taken, the Minister and the proponent could agree to continue the assessment under the EPIP Act. If an agreement was made to continue the assessment under the EPIP Act, approval was not required under the EPBC Act. If no such agreement was made, the proposed action may have been required to be referred under the EPBC Act (see What requires approval under the EPBC Act?).
Before agreeing to do the assessment under the EPIP Act, the Minister must have consulted relevant State or Territory Ministers.
The assessment under EPIP must have been completed by 16 July 2002, or the action may have been required to be referred for approval under the EPBC Act.
Action to carry out in accordance with the manner specified.
A significant impact is an impact which is important, notable, or of consequence, having regard to its context or intensity. Whether or not an action is likely to have a significant impact depends upon the sensitivity, value, and quality of the environment which is impacted, and upon the intensity, duration, magnitude and geographic extent of the impacts. You should consider all of these factors when determining whether an action is likely to have a significant impact on the environment.
Products made or derived from plants and animals.
Import and export (international movement) of plants and animals.