What is Proposed?
The federal government introduced the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (Bill) on 14 November 2013, amending the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act).
One of the key features of the Bill is to ensure that any decision or instrument made pursuant to the EPBC Act will remain valid if the Minister was required to, but failed to consider an approved conservation advice.
What is an Approved Conservation Advice?
Approved conservation advices contain information on key threats to a threatened species or ecological community and actions needed to aid the recovery of the species or the ecological community. Therequirement to consider approved conservation advices was included in the EPBC Act in February 2007.
Why are the Amendments Being Made?
The Federal Minister for the Environment, Hon Greg Hunt, has stated that the need for the amendment arose from the recent Federal Court decision of Tarkine National Coalition Incorporated v Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities  FCA 694. In that decision, the Federal Court declared that an approval of a mining project was invalid as the Minister had failed to consider an approved conservation advice on the Tasmanian Devil. The Minister was required to remake the decision, having regard to the approved conservation advice.
Things to Consider
This amendment is limited to decisions which were made before 31 December 2013 and is intended to provide greater certainty for industry stakeholders who were granted approvals before this date. Appeals can still be lodged where the Minister for Environment fails to consider an approved conservation advice after 31 December 2013.
The Bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee and its report is due on 12 February 2014.
- The federal government proposes to remove the ability to appeal decisions made under the EPBC Act where the Minister for Environment was required to and failed to consider an approved conservation advice.
- The amendment will only apply to decisions made prior to 31 December 2013 and is intended to provide industry stakeholders with greater certainty regarding approvals granted before this time.