Policy developments and other news
Response to review of the governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
The Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg recently released the government’s response to an independent review of governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, accepting all 24 recommendations.
For more information, click here.
Government drops plans to require ENGOs to undertake on-ground work
The Federal Government has abandoned plans to make environmental groups ineligible for tax deductibility status unless they spend at least 50% of funds on on-ground remediation work. The proposal had been supported by the Minerals Council (which sought to extend the restriction to 90%), but opposed by environmental advocates, law associations and, recently, BHP.
Senate Environment Committee reports
The Senate's Environment and Communications Committee has released its inquiry report, In hot water: the impacts of climate change on marine fisheries and biodiversity. The report makes a number of recommendations regarding funding for research and monitoring activities, improved coordination of aquaculture and fisheries data, updating offshore constitutional settlements agreements for boundaries between fisheries, reviewing environmental assessment legislation to ensure climate change issues are considered, and examining the introduction of a ‘greenhouse’ trigger’ to the EPBC Act.
The report of the Senate’s inquiry into Shark Mitigation and Deterrent Measures was released on 12 December 2017. The majority report recommends that eastern states replace lethal drum lines with SMART drum lines, phase out netting, and increase funding for non-lethal mitigation measures.
The Red Tape Committee's report on Environmental Assessments and Approvals, which was due to be released in December 2017, has been deferred and will be published as part of the broader final Red Tape report by December 2018.
New data on access to information laws reveals leaders and laggards
As part of the Australian Government Open Access Plan, Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen from around the country have released collective figures on public use of freedom of information laws.
The figures reveal that the Northern Territory, Tasmania and the Commonwealth have among the highest number of refusals and appeals, and applicants experiencing long delays.
For an analysis of the figures, click here.
Australian Capital Territory
ACT Environment Grants
The ACT Environment Grant winners have been announced for 2017-18. These include nine projects to improve ecosystem health and conservation outcomes with a total value of $203,000, including weed and erosion control, care and rehabilitation of native wildlife and support for on-ground citizen science projects.
For more information, click here.
Draft Fracking Inquiry Report
The draft Final Report of the Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing of Onshore Unconventional Reservoirs in the Northern Territory has been released. The draft report finds that the risks of fracking can be mitigated or avoided with robust regulation, and makes a series of recommendations to strengthen the regulatory framework. Recommendations include requiring strategic regional environmental assessments and groundwater baseline studies to be completed before any production activities occur.
Public hearings on the draft Report will be held from 5-12 Feburary 2018. For more information, click here.
Following the results of the Queensland election, Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced her new cabinet Ministers. Relevant appointments include:
- Cameron Dick: Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister and Manufacturing
- Yvette D’Ath: Attorney-General and Justice Minister
- Dr Anthony Lynham: Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy
- Leeanne Enoch: Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Science and Arts
- Mark Furner: Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
Expert panel backs renewable energy obligations for major projects
The Northern Territory government has released a report of an independent expert panel established to advise on strategies to ensure 50% of the Territory’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030. The changes outlined in the plan would see the Territory move away from its reliance on gas and diesel, which accounts for 96% of its energy generation.
To read the report, click here.
Royal Commission announced into Murray Darling Basin water theft
Premier Jay Weatherill has established a Royal Commission to investigate alleged water theft and breach of the Murray Darling Basin Agreement. The announcement followed a damning assessment of compliance, which found poor levels of enforcement and a lack of transparency regarding water management in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
For more information, click here.
State and Local Government Partnership Agreement
In August 2017, representatives of State and Local Government signed a Partnership Agreement to help ensure local communities are heard on key decisions. The agreement provides that the State Government should consult with Local Government when developing, amending or reviewing State legislation and regulations, policies or programs that will significantly impact local government operations or resources, and sets out minimum consultation timeframes.
For more information, click here.
Minister upholds decisions that Blue Hills Mungada East and Helena-Aurora mining projects unacceptable
The WA Environment Minister has dismissed all appeals against the EPA’s assessments that the following projects were environmentally unacceptable:
The Minister concluded in both cases that the EPA’s assessment of environmental impacts was appropriate and supported by the available evidence.
In relation to the Sinosteel proposal, the Minister upheld the EPA’s conclusion that the proposal was likely to result in significant residual impacts to priority species and communities, and the Mungada Ridge is of very high regional value and the proposal would permanently alter the social setting and visual amenity associated with the Ridge.
The Minister was also satisfied that Helena‑Aurora Range was a significant landform, and the Mineral Resources proposal posed a serious and irreversible threat to flora and troglofauna species, and to the visual character of the Range.
The Minister will now consult with other relevant decision-making authorities to determine whether the proposals should progress, and if so, on what conditions.
To read the Minister’s determinations, click on the links above.
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In the courts
Real estate development company fined for environmental harm
The Darwin Local Court has fined a real estate development company Elias Investments Pty Ltd $71,200, following a guilty plea of causing material environmental harm and for failing to comply with a pollution abatement notice.
For more information, click here.
Federal Court to hear challenge to RFA exemption
Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum (FLP) have commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against VicForests. Their case argues that past and future logging in the central highlands of Victoria has had, is having, or will have a significant impact on the threatened Leadbeater’s Possum and the Greater Glider, contrary to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
FLP argue that, because regular 5 yearly reviews required under the relevant Regional Forest Agreement have not been completed, VicForests' operations are not in accordance with the RFA, and therefore cannot rely on the RFA exemption from the approval requirements under the EPBC Act.
The Federal Court, with the agreement of the parties, ordered that the question of whether logging was undertaken "in accordance with" the RFA be determined separately, and set that question down for hearing on 14 - 15 December 2017. VicForests has agreed not to undertake any further logging operations in the relevant coupes until that question is determined.
The Victorian government and Commonwealth government have applied to join the proceedings.
For a copy of the court orders, click here. For analysis of the case, click here and here.
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Open for comment
National phase out of PFOS
The Department of the Environment and Energy has released a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on options for a national phase out of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and related chemicals. The consultation seeks additional data and information to refine and improve the assumptions in the RIS regarding ongoing uses of PFOS, stockpiles, destruction, and waste management capacity.
Comments can be made until 26 February 2018. For more information, click here.
New South Wales
Construction Waste Management Reforms
The Environment Protection Authority invites submissions on proposed changes to NSW environment protection legislation concerning construction waste. These changes build on 2014 reforms of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation, by seeking to drive further resource recovery and address poor waste practices.
Submissions are invited until 12 December 2017. For more information, click here.
Proposed Primary Production and Rural Development State Environmental Planning Policy
The Department of Planning and Environment invites submissions on a package of reforms to update and improve the planning framework for primary production and rural development. These are discussed in the Primary Production and Rural Development - Explanation of Intended Effect.
The comment period has been extended to 15 January 2018. For more information, click here.
Proposed Environment State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP)
The Department of Planning and Environment NSW invites submissions on a proposed SEPP to simplify the planning rules for a number of water catchments, waterways, urban bushland, and Willandra Lakes World Heritage Property.
The comment period has been extended to 31 January 2018. For more information, click here.
Draft Large-Scale Solar Energy Guideline
The Department of Planning and Environment is inviting submissions on a draft Large-Scale Solar Energy Guideline, providing guidance on the planning framework for the assessment and approval of large-scale solar energy development proposals under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The Guideline outlines the key assessment issues for State significant solar energy projects, and encourages early consultation.
Feedback on the draft Guideline can be provided until 16 February 2018. For more information, click here.
Enhancing resource recovery and discussing the place of energy recovery
The EPA is seeking to build on prior broad engagement with members of the waste management and resource recovery industry and other key stakeholders, by obtaining observations and advice on energy from waste policy.
Comment can be made until 12 January 2018. For more information, click here.
Aboriginal and Dual Naming Policy Review
The Tasmanian Government’s Aboriginal and Dual Naming Policy has been in place since 2013 and provides a framework for the use of Aboriginal names for Tasmanian places. To date, 13 dual names have been declared under the Policy (including kunanyi / Mt Wellington and wukalina / Mt William), with a further 11 under consideration.
The Government has released an Issues Paper seeking feedback on the Policy, including the nomination and consultation process.
Comments can be made until 22 December 2017. For more information, click here.
Major Projects legislation
Following further consultation, a revised draft Land Use Planning and Approvals (Major Projects) Bill 2017 has been released for further public comment. Changes from the earlier draft include longer time frames for consultation, and clarification regarding the eligibility for major project status of proposals that are inconsistent with local height restrictions (in response to community opposition to the use of the new process for proposed highrise developments).
Comments on the revised draft Bill can be made until 29 January 2018. For more information, click here.
Developing the State’s waste-to-energy industry discussion paper
The Victorian Government has released a discussion paper on converting waste to energy to support the development of new technologies, including anaerobic digestion and thermal treatment of waste.
Comments can be made until 28 December 2017. For more information, click here.
Amendment to the Waste Management Policy
The Victorian Government is seeking views on the proposed approach to managing e-waste in Victoria. A package of proposed measures has been developed to reduce e-waste from landfill, increase resource recovery and support jobs and investment in the recycling sector. The proposed measures will be implemented through an amendment to the Waste Management Policy (Siting, Design and Management of Landfills).
Comments on the proposals can be made until 25 January 2018. For more information, click here.
Proposal to Ban Lightweight Plastic Bags
The Victorian Government has released a discussion paper on its proposal to ban single-use lightweight plastic bags.
Comments can be made until 25 January 2018. For more information, click here.
Draft Planned or Managed Retreat Guidelines
The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage has released the Draft Planned or Managed Retreat Guidelines, designed to support the State Coastal Planning Policy and assist decision-makers to implement strategies in response to coastal hazards.
Submissions can be made until 15 December 2017. For more information, click here.
Amendments to landfill and waste levy rules
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has released a consultation paper proposing amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulations 1987 in response to the Supreme Court decision in Eclipse Resources Pty Ltd v The State of Western Australia [No.4] (2016) WASC 62. The proposed amendments are intended to ensure that the use of clean fill for development can continue without the requirement for a licence or liability for the waste levy.
Submissions can be made until 2 February 2018. For more information, click here.
Waste Strategy review
The Waste Authority is reviewing WA’s Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy and has prepared a consultation paper which sets out proposed amendments to the strategy.
The proposals include the introduction of three new objectives: to minimise the environmental impact of waste, to reduce the generation of waste, and to increase the recovery of resources from waste. The consultation paper sets out actions that should be taken to achieve those objectives and identifies waste generation and resource recovery targets. The proposed targets would bring WA's waste generation in line with the national average, and aim to recycle or recover 75% of all waste by 2030.
Comments on the proposed amendments can be made until 1 March 2018. For more information, click here.
Fracking Inquiry Background and Issues Paper
The WA Government has gazetted a ban on fracking in the Perth Metropolitan, Peel and South-West regions, and a moratorium across the rest of the State.
The Independent Scientific Panel Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation in WA has released a Background and Issues Paper. Examining the potential impacts of fracking on the onshore environment in regions currently under moratorium.
In particular, the Panel is seeking information on:
the environmental values potentially at risk from unconventional oil and gas developments involving fracking;
data or other evidence that might inform a scientific risk analysis of those impacts, with an emphasis on local geographies and geologies, and local evidence from WA; and
reflections or experience on what a regulatory framework should ideally look like if the Government lifts the current moratorium.
Submissions can be made until 19 March 2018. For more information, click here.
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