History of the EPBC Act

EPBC Act and regulations

The Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) came into force on 16 July 2000.

2013 EPBC Act amendment – Water trigger

Federal Parliament has passed an amendment to Australia's national environment law to provide that water resources are a matter of national environmental significance, in relation to coal seam gas and large coal mining development. For more information see:

EPBC Act - 16 July 1999 to 15 July 2010

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15 July 2010

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Recreational Fishing for Mako and Porbeagle Sharks) Act 2010 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 14 July 2010 and came into force on 15 July 2010. The Act amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to provide that it is not an offence to kill, injure, take, trade, keep or move longfin mako, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks in or from Commonwealth waters when that action is taken during the course of recreational fishing.

1 March 2010

The Statute Law Revision Act 2010 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 1 March 2010. Schedules 1 and 5 of the Act makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that came into effect 1  March 2010. The amendments are minor in nature and correct drafting errors or relate to the use of the term "internet".

25 November 2009

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 25 November 2008. The majority of the relevant changes to the EPBC Act take effect from 25 November 2009. It is an Act to amend the law in relation to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and for related purposes. The key amendments to the EPBC Act are under Schedules 4 and 5 of the Act.

Part 1, Schedule 4 establishes changes to streamline environment impact assessment under the EPBC Act and GBRMP Act. Those changes include establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as a 'matter of national environmental significance' and narrowing the Part 9 exemption for actions in the Marine Park to 'as of right' activities under the Marine Park zoning plan.

The amendments under Part 1, Schedule 5 of the Act make the investigation-related provisions of the EPBC Act available for the purposes of investigating compliance with the GBRMP Act. The EPBC Act is also amended to include new investigations provisions for consistency with the investigations powers previously available to authorised officers under the GBRMP Act.

22 November 2008

The Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 21 November 2008. Schedule 3 of the Act makes an amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that comes into effect on 22 November 2008. The amendment updates the name of the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 within paragraph 524(3)(f) of the EPBC Act.

3 July 2008

The Statute Law Revision Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 3 July 2008. Schedule 1 of the Act makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that came into effect immediately after the commencement of items in the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendments Act (No 1) 2006 (EHLA Act) (ie on 19 February 2007). Schedule 2 of the Act makes amendments to the EHLA Act that came into effect immediately after the commencement of the items in the EHLA Act. The amendments are minor in nature and correct drafting errors to amendments made to the EPBC Act contained in the EHLA Act.

15 April 2007

On 15 April 2007 the Migration Legislation Amendment (Information and Other Measures) Act 2007 received the Royal Assent, amending the law in relation to migration, fisheries and the environment. This Act amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), so that it mirrors the 'identifying information provisions' in the Migration Act 1958, the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984.

The identifying information provisions allow for the disclosure of identifying information, such as signatures and photos, more readily between agencies. Consistency between Acts is necessary, as a person suspected of breaching the EPBC Act may be detained in Australia under the Migration Act 1958. Schedule 1 of the EPBC Act is amended by Schedule 1, Part 1 of this Act to effect these changes. This part commenced on 1 May 2007.

12 December 2006

The Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2006 received Royal Assent on 12 December 2006. Sections 1 to 3 and Schedule 2, relating to application, transitional and savings provisions, commenced on Royal Assent.

Section 2 provides commencement information for the Items in the Act. Below is a general explanation of amendments, which have come into effect by proclamation on the listed dates.

Note: Schedule 2 is relevant to the continued application of some "old" EPBC Act provisions that continue in effect after 19 February 2007. Further information is available under Amendments to related Acts and Regulations below.

19 February 2007 - Majority of the Act

Items 1-604, 606, 608-762, 764-780, 783-807, 809-835, 840, 846-851, 854-869 of Schedule 1 commenced on 19 February 2007. These items, which constitute the majority of this Act, amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003, the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 and the Migration Act 1958. Elements of the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2003 were also amended.

These amendments aim to make the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 more efficient and effective through the use of, in part, strategic approaches to environmental issues, reducing the time and cost of processing, and stronger enforcement provisions.

15 January 2007 - Undertaking as to damages

Schedule 1, Item 763 commenced on 15 January 2007, repealing section 478 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This amendment allows the Federal Court to exercise its discretion to require an applicant for an injunction to give an undertaking as to damages, as a condition of granting an interim injunction.

1 January 2007 - Overseas heritage

Schedule 1, Items 605, 837, 839, 852 and 853 commenced on 1 January 2007.

Items 605, 837 and 839 of the Act make amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and related amendments to the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003 that came into effect by Proclamation on 1 January 2007. The amendments establish a new List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia and allow for the Australian Heritage Council to provide advice to the Minister on listing of places.

Items 852 and 853 amend the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981. The amendment removed the text of the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 from Schedule 1 and amended the definition of 'Protocol' in Subsection 4(1) to reflect this.

October 2006

4 November 2006

The Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Consequential, Transitional and Other Measures Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 4 November 2006. Schedule 2 of the Act makes an amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that comes into effect at the same time as the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 commences (ie on 1 July 2007). The amendment updates the name of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 to the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 in section 528 of the EPBC Act.

29 March 2006

The Offshore Petroleum (Repeals and Consequential Amendments) Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 29 March 2006. Schedule 2 of the Act makes an amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that comes into effect at the same time as Chapter 2 of the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 commences. This is expected to occur by proclamation in late 2007. The amendment updates the name of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 to the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 within paragraph 524(3)(f) of the EPBC Act.

23 March 2006

The Statute Law Revision Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 23 March 2006. Schedule 1 of the Act makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that came into effect immediately after the commencement of the EPBC Act (ie on 16 July 2000). The amendments are minor in nature and correct drafting errors in the EPBC Act.

1 April 2005

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Act 2005 received Royal Assent on 1 April 2005. Schedule 1 of the Act makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that came into effect on 16 May 2005. The amendment repeals subsection 303GJ(2), thereby removing the requirement to appoint members with special environmental knowledge or skills to the Tribunal if a review of decisions relating to specified provisions of the Act is being undertaken.

22 March 2005

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Act 2005 received Royal Assent on 22 March 2005. Schedule 4 of the Act makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that came into effect via Proclamation on 24 March 2005. The amendments repeal Sub-section 74(1A), relating to inviting comments on referred proposals from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), following the abolition of ATSIC.

23 September 2003

The Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2003 received Royal Assent on 23 September 2003. Schedule 4 of the Act makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) that come into effect on Royal Assent. The amendments provide:

  • an ability to not accept a referral where it is a component of a larger action; and related notification requirements in these circumstances;
  • a civil penalty provision for actions not taken in the manner specified in a notice issued under s77;
  • requirements in relation to various approval decisions on actions of relevance to World Heritage matters;
  • requirements relating to Commonwealth compliance with plans for World Heritage places and Ramsar wetlands;
  • Ministerial delegation of powers and functions to the Director of National Parks; and
  • additional internet publication requirements.

Schedule 1 and 3 of the Act made amendments to the EPBC Act that came into effect on 1 January 2004. These amendments incorporate a new heritage protection and management system into the EPBC Act that provide for:

  • inclusion of 'national heritage places' as a new matter of national environmental significance;
  • establishment of a National Heritage list;
  • establishment of a Commonwealth Heritage list;
  • nomination, listing, management and protection arrangements for places on the two new lists.

Schedule 2 of the Act makes amendments to the EPBC Act that provide for certain consultation mechanisms with the Director of Indigenous Heritage Protection which come into effect at the same time as this position is established under section 9 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Bill 1989, when enacted.

Australian Heritage Council Act 2003, No. 85 of 2003 and Australian Heritage Council (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2003, No 86 of 2003 also received Royal Assent on 23 September 2003. Read more about the Australian Heritage Council Acts

3 June 2003

The Crimes Legislation Enhancement Act 2003 received Royal Assent on 3 June 2003. Schedule 4 of the Act makes some amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) that come into effect immediately after the EPBC Act commenced.

The amendments are minor technical corrections relating to the references to the part numbering in the Crimes Act 1914 within sections 411 and 425 of the EPBC Act.

3 July 2002

The Statute Law Revision Act 2002 received Royal Assent on 3 July 2002. Schedule 1 of the Act makes various amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) that come into effect immediately after the relevant provisions in the EPBC Act commenced. The amendments are minor in nature and correct minor clerical and drafting errors in the EPBC Act.

  • Subsection 151(3); the reference to 148(1) is amended to 148(2) Heading of subsection 63(1) is altered by omitting 'may' and substituting 'must'.
  • Paragraph 520(3)(k) omit 'done at Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1991' and substitute 'done at New York on 9 May 1992'
  • Subsection 523(3) is repealed.
  • Section 528 (paragraph (c) of the definition of agency) insert 'State or' after 'law of the'.

5 April 2002

The Regional Forests Agreements Act (RFA Act) received Royal Assent on 5 April 2002 and came into effect on 3 May 2002 following Proclamation on 2 May 2002. Schedule 1 of the RFA Act amends the EPBC Act so that both Acts have identical provisions relating to the application of the EPBC Act to RFA forestry operations.

11 July 2001

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Wildlife Protection) Act 2001 repeals the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 and incorporates an enhanced wildlife protection regime into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Act received Royal Assent on 11 July 2001 and commenced on 11 January 2002.

28 June 2001

An Act to deal with matters consequential on the enactment of the Corporations Act 2001 and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001. The Act received Royal Assent on 28 June 2001 and commenced on the same date as the Corporations Act 2001, (15 July 2001). The amendment to the EPBC Act reflects the enactment of the Corporations Act 2001, (a minor technical change where 'Corporations Law' is amended to 'Corporations Act 2001').

11 November 1999

An Act to deal with consequential and transitional matters arising from the repeal of the Public Service Act 1922 and the enactment of the Public Service Act 1999. The Act received Royal Assent on 11 November 1999 and commenced on the same date as the Public Service Act 1999 (5 December 1999). The amendment to the EPBC Act reflects terminology used in the new Public Service Act 1999.

16 July 1999

The Act received Royal Assent on 16 July 1999 and commenced on the same date as Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act No. 91, 1999 (16 July 2000). This Act repealed the following five acts: Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974; Endangered Species Protection Act 1992; National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975; World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 and the Whale Protection Act 1980. The Act also puts in place savings and transitional arrangements and makes consequential changes to other legislation required by the new scheme introduced by the EPBC Act.

16 July 1999

EPBC Regulations - 5 July 2000 to 1 June 2010

This history is in reverse chronological order.

1 June 2010

These Regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (EPBC Regulations) and were made on 20 May 2010, commencing on 1 June 2010. The amended elements of the EPBC Regulations are Parts 2A, 4, 4A, 5, 6, 7, 8A, 9, 9A, 10, 12, 13, 13A, 14, 16, 17 and 18; Schedules 2, 4A, 4B, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 12 and certain definitions.

The amendments are the result of experience in administration of the regulations and are designed to improve the operation of a wide range of regulatory provisions.

The amendments also support certain provisions that were inserted into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 by the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act 2006. In particular, the regulations specify the process for adding additional heritage values to listed National and Commonwealth Heritage places, requirements for requests for reconsideration of controlled action decision, and a range of new publication requirements.

21 December 2009

These Regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 and were made on 14 December 2009 commencing on 21 December 2009.

The amendment aligns the fees applicable to multiple use export permits for regulated native specimens of Macropus and Thylogale (kangaroo and wallaby) species with the fees applicable to multiple use export permits for all other regulated native specimens.

25 November 2009

These Regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (EPBC Regulations) and were made on 12 November 2009, commencing on 25 November 2009.

The amendment repeals the requirement for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to obtain the Minister's advice in relation to actions authorised by a permit or authority under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 if it has, will have, or is likely to have a significant impact on the environment. This amendment follows the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008.

12 November 2009

These Regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (EPBC Regulations) and were made on 12 November 2009, commencing on 14 November 2009.

The amendment prescribes the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) under regulation 19.02 of the Regulations and thus excluded the ARTC from the definition of Commonwealth agency under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

14 May 2009

These Regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (EPBC Regulations) and were made on 14 May 2009, commencing on 16 May 2009.

The amendments substitute revised and updated provisions in Part 12 of the Regulations which regulate activities within Commonwealth Reserves. The amended provisions provide greater flexibility in relation to the prohibition and regulation of non-commercial fishing in Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones.

16 February 2007

These Regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (EPBC Regulations) and were made on 16 February 2007, commencing on 19 February 2007. The amended elements of the EPBC Regulations are Parts 3, 5, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 9A, 10 and 16 and Schedule 8.

The amendments enable the EPBC Regulations to continue to operate effectively following the amendment of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) by the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2006. The amendments to the Regulations relate to environmental assessment and approval processes, species and ecological communities, international movement of wildlife specimens and management of Commonwealth Reserves.

14 June 2006

These Regulations were made on 14 June 2006 and commenced on 17 June 2006. The Regulations amend Part 8 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000. The amendments substitute revised and updated provisions in Part 8 of the Regulations which regulate activities with the aim to minimise the impacts of persons on cetacean populations within the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

11 November 2005

These Regulations were made on 11 November 2005 and commenced on 1 December 2005. The Regulations establish the legal framework that provides for the control of access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas as provided under Section 301 of the EPBC Act.

21 July 2005

These Regulations were made on 21 July 2005 and commenced on 22 July 2005. These Regulations prescribe the criteria under section 46(3)(a) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that a management plan for a World Heritage property or a National Heritage place and the law of the State or Territory under which the management plan is in force (or is to be in force) must meet before the Minister may accredit the management plan for the purposes a bilateral agreement.

23 December 2003

These regulations were made on 23 December 2003 and commenced on 1 January 2004. The purpose of the regulations is to provide additional detail to the heritage provisions in the EPBC Act.

2 May 2002

These Regulations were made on 2 May 2002 and commenced on 9 May 2002. The purpose of these Regulations is to prescribe criteria relating to the accreditation of fisheries management plans under Section 33 of the EPBC Act.

6 December 2001

These Regulations were made on 6 December 2001 and commenced on 11 January 2002. The purpose of these Regulations is to provide additional detail to the wildlife trade provisions in the new Part 13A of the EPBC Act.

8 October 2001

These regulations were made on 8 October 2001 and commenced on 15 October 2001. The regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (No. 181) to remove Telstra from the definition of Commonwealth Agency in the EPBC Act.

28 June 2001

These regulations were made on 28 June 2001 and commenced on 5 July 2001. The regulations amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (No 181). The amendments relate mainly to the requirements to be met by bilateral agreements under the EPBC Act and also include some technical amendments.

5 July 2000

These regulations were made on 5 July 2000 and commenced on the same date as the EPBC Act (16 July 2000). The purpose of the regulations is to give effect to the provisions of the EPBC Act.

Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act (No 1) 2006, No 165

Schedule 2 of the Act establishes application, saving and transitional provisions. These provisions establish how processes, that commenced under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 prior to 19 February 2007, are handled after that Act and the processes were amended by the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act 2006 on 19 February 2007.

The provisions relate to assessments and approvals, recovery plans and conservation advice, fisheries, protected species, wildlife trade, listing processes, Commonwealth reserves and compliance and enforcement.

Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act Regulations 2007, No 334

These Regulations were made on 4 October 2007 and commenced on 20 February 2007.

The Regulations provide for an additional application and saving provision under the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act 2006. The provisions only apply to the listing process for certain ecological communities that were deleted in error, due to the operation of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, from the list of threatened ecological communities established under Section 181 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.