– Brendan Sydes, Lawyer and CEO, EJA

There have been two significant developments in the last month in relation to nature protection both federally and in Victoria.

EPBC Review discussion paper released

As we reported in last month’s bulletin, the federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, has appointed an expert panel to conduct the mandated 10 yearly review of our national Environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The government has made some worrying comments about using the opportunity to wind back environmental protections to speed up mining approvals.

The Panel has now released a discussion paper for public comment, and the paper can be found on the review website.

We’ll be working with our colleagues in the Places You Love Alliance to develop a response to the discussion paper, including a submission guide. We’ll keep you informed of the process ahead of time so you too can develop a response to the discussion paper by 14 February 2020.

Victorian Parliament Inquiry into the extinction crisis

In Victorian news, on 30 October 2019 the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament resolved to establish an Inquiry into the extinction crisis.

The Inquiry is welcome, and timely given the passage this year of amendments to Victoria’s threatened species legislation, the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

As we have argued, a key test for these new laws will be whether they go far enough to address the extinction crisis. The Inquiry will provide an opportunity to examine in depth what needs to be improved to turn the situation around.

The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry, which has been referred to the Legislative Council’s Environment and Planning Committee, are outlined in the resolution:

That this house:

(1) notes that the recent UN global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services found that more animals and plants are threatened with extinction than ever before in human history and that the decline of ecosystems threatens the resilience of agriculture and human wellbeing;

(2) further notes that the Victorian state of the environment report demonstrates significant decline in Victoria’s natural environment as well as increasing rates of native species extinction;

(3) requires the Environment and Planning Committee to inquire into, consider and report, within 12 months, on the decline of Victoria’s ecosystems and measures to restore habitats and populations of threatened and endangered species, including but not limited to:

(a) the extent of the decline of Victoria’s biodiversity and the likely impact on people, particularly First Peoples, and ecosystems if more is not done to address this, including consideration of climate change impacts;

(b) the adequacy of the legislative framework protecting Victoria’s environment, including grasslands, forests and the marine and coastal environment, and native species;

(c) the adequacy and effectiveness of government programs and funding protecting and restoring Victorians ecosystems;

(d) legislative, policy, program, governance and funding solutions to facilitate ecosystem and species protection, restoration and recovery in Victoria, in the context of climate change impacts;

(e) opportunities to restore Victoria’s environment while upholding First Peoples’ connection to country, and increasing and diversifying employment opportunities in Victoria; and

(f) any other related matters