Greater glider poking its head out of a tree hollow in a patch of old growth forest in Munruben, Logan City, south of Brisbane

16 Apr 2024

AUSTRALIAN EPA IS A POTENTIAL “GAME CHANGER”, BUT COMPREHENSIVE PACKAGE OF REFORMS ARE NEEDED TO PREVENT EXTINCTIONS

Plans to establish a new federal watchdog to enforce Australia’s environment laws are welcome and must be followed by a comprehensive package of reforms to prevent extinctions, said WWF-Australia.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek today announced the next phase of long-awaited reforms to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The reforms include establishing an Environment Protection Agency (EPA) with strong enforcement powers and Environment Information Australia, a body to improve the quality of environmental data.

WWF-Australia’s CEO, Dermot O’Gorman said these reforms were an important step forward.

“Establishing an EPA could be a real game changer for the environment,” said Mr O’Gorman.

“The greatest failing of the EPBC Act has been the absence of genuine compliance and enforcement.

“A well-resourced and truly independent cop on the beat could help fix this problem and ensure every Australian, business and industry is doing the right thing for nature.

“This EPA should also have an independent board to prevent political interference and provide strong oversight of its regulatory powers and operation. We urge the government to consider this future-proofing option.

“We’re also pleased to see the government responding to the need for better and more accessible environmental data with the bill to establish an EIA.

“Improved monitoring and data collection will help us keep track of environment goals and enable faster, transparent decision-making for businesses and nature.”

While welcoming today’s announcement, Mr O’Gorman said this must now be followed by the remaining package of reforms to protect and regenerate nature that the government promised in its Nature Positive Plan.

“An EPA alone will not prevent new species extinctions,” he said.

“The government needs to finish the job it started in 2022 and deliver the comprehensive reform package it announced it would do this term.

“This must include strong, legally enforceable national standards to provide certainty to states and territories, businesses, communities, and Traditional Owners.

“Our wildlife and wild places cannot afford to continue waiting for action.

A record number of species were added to Australia’s threatened species list in 2023 and we’re losing vast stretches of forests and wildlife habitat every year.

“This government has set a welcome and worthy goal to end extinction. Now is the time to deliver on this promise with an ambitious reform agenda.”