National Farmers' Federation

Report reaffirms farmers’ EPBC Act frustrations & supports calls for reform

The eagerly awaited interim report from the Independent Statutory Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act has affirmed farmers’ long-held frustrations with the regulation and made the case for wide-ranging changes.
“The NFF has been seeking reform of the Act for more than a decade,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.

“Today, we’re pleased to see that the interim report identifies and proposes solutions to many of the concerns held by the NFF and our members.  

“It is now imperative that the recommendations outlined by Professor Graeme Samuels, be adopted.
We must not squander this opportunity for overdue reform.

Agriculture cannot afford a repeat of the 2009 Hawke Review where the recommendations were left gathering dust on the shelf.”

The NFF has seen a number of agriculture’s issues positively supported by the report, including responses to the following problems:

  • Ah hoc national action to address key threats such as feral animals;
  • The ineffective, inefficient, duplicative nature of the Act: the Act is complex, its construction is archaic and it does not meet best practice for modern regulation; 
  • There are unexplored opportunities for greater collaboration between governments and the private sector to invest in both the environment directly, and in innovation to bring down the costs of environmental restoration activities;
  • The Commonwealth and states need to work effectively, and in partnership with the community, to manage Australia’s environment and iconic places well; and
  • The collection of data and information generated by the Act is fragmented and disparate.
Mr Mahar said Professor Samuels had made a number of salient recommendations including:
  • That legally enforceable national environmental standards be granular and focus on outcomes;
  • The devolution of assessments and approvals to willing states;
  • That an independent regulator including for assessments and policies not be supported;
  • That greenhouse gas policy not be expanded into the EPBC Act;
  • That the environment be restored and development enabled; and
  • That these recommendations be progressed through further consultations.

These findings will now be the focus of consultation through a series of roundtables in the lead up to the release of the final report, due in late October.

“On our initial consideration there are several sound recommendations that align with the  positions the NFF has taken to both the Craik Review of the relationship between agriculture and the EPBC Act and the current Samuels review,” Mr Mahar said.

“Minister Ley has committed to progressing a range of issues that the Commonwealth will prioritise for progression.

“Of particular interest are those that seek to explore market-based solutions for better eco-system management; the development of national environmental standards via bilaterals with the states; and removing duplication through a state accreditation process to carry out assessments and approvals.

“These are welcome processes and the NFF looks forward to engaging closely in their development.”

Mr Mahar said the NFF continued to advocate for reducing red and green tape –
recognising that multiple values could be achieved in a sustainably productive landscape, and that intensifying agricultural productivity was not mutually exclusive from sound environmental outcomes.

“The age of lock up and leave is dead. We need to allow sensible, sustainable and productive landscapes to coexist with environmental attributes.

“A key pathway is to apply a value to biodiversity and other sustainability instruments that revalue the natural capital of the farm landscape.”

The NFF is leading the development of a Biodiversity Certification Scheme Pilot which will support the implementation of a marketplace for natural capital that will diversify income opportunities; measure and value biophysical assets and have the complementary effect of creating a greater focus on the monetisation and protection environmental attributes.

“We have a goal for five per cent of farmers’ income to be derived from ecosystem services by 2030.

“For too long the regulatory stick has been preferred, despite biodiversity outcomes actually declining. The solution is in a market-based approach rather than a stronger stick. It is time for some carrots.

“We will continue to work with Governments, our industry partners and the value chain to deliver these important reforms,” Mr Mahar said.

Media Contact
Laureta Wallace
GM, Media & Communications
0408 448 250

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