Following the receipt of a valid referral, the Minister has 20 business days to decide if the proposed action triggers the matters protected by the EPBC Act and requires a formal assessment and approval.
As part of the 20 business days, the EPBC Act provides a public comment period of 10 business days (with no extensions). This provides an opportunity for relevant Australian, State and Territory government ministers and members of the public to comment on the proposed action.
At the end of the 20 business days, the Department will write to you to advise you of the outcome of your referral and whether or not formal assessment and approval under the EPBC Act is required. The decision will also be available on the public notices page.
During the decision process (including comments from the public) the Minister can make one of three decisions:
Not controlled action
If the proposed action is not likely to be significant, approval is not required if the action is taken in accordance with the referral. Consequently, the action can proceed (subject to any state or local government requirements).
Not controlled action — 'particular manner'
If the proposed action is not likely to be significant if undertaken in a particular manner, approval is not required.
If the proposed action is likely to be significant, it is called a 'controlled action'. The matters which the proposed action may have a significant impact on (eg Ramsar wetlands or threatened species) are known as the controlling provisions.
Consequently, the proposed action will require approval and is subject to the formal assessment and approval process. The type of assessment (approach) will be decided at the same time.
All projects (actions) are subject to the compliance audit programme. The audits will help to ensure projects with the potential to impact on matters of national environmental significance are implemented as planned.