We advised the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy on a major restructure of the environmental assessment and approval processes around Australia.
Environmental law in Australia operates at each tier of government. The Commonwealth exercises its functions primarily through the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This includes provisions requiring the assessment and approval of actions that have a significant impact on matters of ‘national environmental significance’.
In many instances, the assessment and approval regime under the EPBC Act overlaps with state-based regimes. To overcome the potential for doubling up, the states and the Commonwealth can enter into ‘bilateral agreements’ for assessment and approval processes.
While bilateral agreements have been in place for a number of years, the Council of Australian Governments agreed the process of making bilateral approval agreements should be streamlined. It was proposed that the Commonwealth could accredit approval processes under State legislation so that once the State approval was in place, the Commonwealth approval would apply concurrently.
Maddocks advised on the drafting of bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and each state and territory government, ensuring the approval processes could satisfy the legal requirements under the EPBC Act.
This work has afforded our Environment team with excellent knowledge of the local, state and Commonwealth environmental laws throughout Australia.