Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s Environment Is The Enemy – Sussan Ley faithful to Scott Morrison’s priority

Sussan Ley’s environmental law circus, Independent Australia By Sue Arnold | 5 November 2019 Vulnerable species like the koala – and the environment in general – are the losers, while developers reign supreme in Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s environmental law “review”. Sue Arnold reports.

In July, Sussan Ley sent out a statement indicating that as Minister for the Environment, she would

… commence a ten-year statutory review of the [Environment Protection and Conservation] Act by October this year. And it is the right time to have a conversation about the best ways we can ensure strong environmental and biodiversity protection measures that encourage people to work together in supporting the environment.

All Australians will have a chance to share their ideas as part of the next statutory review of the EPBC Act, due to commence by October 2019.

Exactly why Ley waited another three months before commencing the review is unclear. In a follow-up press release, she announced that former competition regulator Professor Graeme Samuel would head the year-long review, ‘to tackle green tape and deliver greater certainty to business, farmers and conservation groups‘.

Missing from Ley’s pronouncements are key issues relevant to one of the most critical problems — self-referral by developers. Under the current scenario, a developer whose project is likely to destroy or severely impact koala habitat makes the decision whether or not to “refer“ the development to the Federal government as a matter of national environmental significance (MNES), under the provisions of the EPBC Act 1999.

As the koala is listed as “vulnerable” under the EPBC, the referral should never have been reduced to the responsibility of a developer — referral to the Federal government should have been made a mandatory requirement.

A referral is designated as a “controlled action” if the result of a scorecard available from the Government’s ‘EPBC Act referral guidelines for the vulnerable koala’ reaches a certain level. Then the project is assessed by the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy and the minister makes the decision whether to approve the project. Documents relevant to the project are published on the EPBC referral list website and open to public comment — including environmental impact assessments paid for by the developer.

Once the project is approved, a “koala management plan” (KMP) must be provided by the developer before the project commences. However, this is where the proverbial hits the fan as there is no requirement for any public comment, nor any access to the plan.

One of the most important koala management plans has been on Sussan Ley’s desk since July. This is the Lendlease plan for southwest Sydney koalas at their Mt Gilead, now renamed “FigTree Hill” urban project for 1700 residences. This is a project mired in controversy and public outrage because of the risks to the largest expanding healthy koala colony in the Sydney Basin.

IA has been following up this issue with the only section of the Department of the Environment and Energy (DEE) that responds in a timely manner — the Communications and Engagement Branch Media (CEBM) team. ……….

The bottom line to this Monty Python circus is not only the Lendlease koala plan of management which is being withheld, but any developer who has self-referred has no requirement by the environment minister to publish the plan other than “on the developer’s website”.

Given that this would require a large staff to check the multiple developer projects impacting koala habitat throughout Queensland and New South Wales on a daily basis, a new definition of “mission impossible” arises.

Essentially, any koala management plan may be approved. There are no published standards or requirements — much less compliance or monitoring.

review by some of Australia’s leading ecologists sums up the catastrophic situation facing koala survival.

Some 85 per cent of land-based threatened species experienced habitat loss. The iconic koala was among the worst affected. More than 90 per cent of habitat loss was not referred or submitted for assessment, despite a requirement to do so under Commonwealth environment laws.

Our research indicates the legislation has comprehensively failed to safeguard Australia’s globally significant natural values, and must urgently be reformed and enforced.

Sussan Ley’s priorities in a review of the EPBC Act reflect those of the Prime Minister: the environment is the enemy.,13279

November 7, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics

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