EPBC Act review calls for ‘single-touch’ environmental approvals

Federal environment laws should be amended immediately to allow states and territories to deliver “single-touch” environmental approvals, an independent review has advised.

But the new arrangements must be subject to rigorous, transparent oversight by an independent environment assurance commissioner and underpinned by legally enforceable national environmental standards.

The significant environmental law reform is one of 38 recommendations contained in the final report of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) led by Graeme Samuel, pictured.

In his foreword, Professor Samuel says the EPBC Act is outdated, does not enable the Commonwealth to effectively fulfil its environmental management responsibilities, overlaps with state and territory laws, and is a barrier to “holistic environmental management”.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley released Professor Samuel’s final report this week, saying the Morrison Government would work through the detail of the recommendations with stakeholders.

With Prime Minister Scott Morrison having already committed to fast-tracking environmental approvals for 15 major projects by working with states and territories to establish joint assessment teams, the Government is expected to accept many of the review’s recommendations.

These include the modernisation of indigenous cultural heritage protection.

The Morrison Government introduced legislation into Parliament last August to support single-touch environment approval. However, the legislation has yet to be approved by the Senate.

ALGA, together with some state and territory local government associations and individual councils, made submissions to the inquiry.