Biodiversity law update

A lot has been happening in the biodiversity law space. Across Australia, our work on the next generation of environmental laws; in Victoria, everything up for review. Catch up with the latest.

At a national level, EJA continues to support the Australian Panel of Experts in Environmental  Law (APEEL).

This exciting and ambitious project exists to re-imagine Australia’s environmental laws for the next decade and beyond. We’ve already published a summary paper.

The panel is now in the process of preparing and finalising longer proposals and discussion in ‘technical’ papers. These will be released in late April, so watch this space.

We’ve also been involved in discussions around environmental democracy in particular, but also exciting work around principles and goals of environmental law and the ways in which natural resources management can be more effectively managed through the law for restoration and enjoyment of this and future generations.

Native vegetation

After an extended stakeholder engagement process, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning released a consultation paper as part of the current review of permitted clearing rules.

The paper outlines areas on which it is seeking feedback on changes to planning rules governing the clearing of native vegetation.

Members of the public are encouraged to put in submissions. Environmental Justice Australia will be preparing a submission over the next few weeks. We’ve also put out a briefing paper to help others in preparing submissions.

Some of the changes proposed in the consultation paper which we believe are an improvement on current laws include:

  • Clearly reintroducing avoidance principles in policy;
  • Reducing thresholds so that fewer applications would be dealt with under a ‘low-risk’ (fast-tracked) pathway;
  • Take better account of the value of scattered trees in decision-making;
  • Establish standards for all offsets used in native vegetation management;
  • Establish clearer rules and rationales to exemption categories
  • Foreshadow development of better compliance and enforcement approaches.

On the other hand, substantial use of mapping and modelling will remain in the management system, along with various scoring systems. The focus of management remains a narrow conception of biodiversity as habitat (especially for threatened species), as distinct from wider values including land protection and cultural and social values.

Biodiversity Strategy

Another part of DELWP’s heavy program of review is the newly released draft Biodiversity Strategy.

This intends to establish a high-level, overarching policy framework for biodiversity protection, management and restoration directions across Victoria.

Flora & Fauna Guarantee Act Review

The Victorian Government is also reviewing Victoria’s main biodiversity law, the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, and we continue to have discussion with them around this.

A consultation paper on this review will also be released shortly.

Reform of this Act is well overdue. Our lawyers have had extensive engagement on this issue over the years. We’ve always been heavily critical of the current Act, which has significantly under performed since its introduction in the late 1980s, so the chance to improve it is very welcome.

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