Fed Govt invests $25M to clear environmental assessment backlog

The Federal Government has made a $25 million “congestion busting” investment in a bid to break through a multi-billion-dollar backlog of environmental assessments.

According to Environment Minister Sussan Ley, just 19 per cent of key assessment decision points were being made on time in the December quarter last year.

“By March 2020, we are making 87 per cent on time and the department is on track to make that figure 100 per cent by June 2020, with no relaxation of any environmental safeguards under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC),” she said.

Additionally, Ms Ley said there was a backlog of 78 overdue key decisions in December 2019.

“That backlog has already been reduced by 47 per cent and is on track to be cleared by the end of this year,” she said.

“Cutting green tape is not about removing protection for the environment – it is about getting rid of unnecessary delays – delays that currently cost environmental groups, businesses and the economy hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Ms Ley said business confidence in a balanced assessment approach makes companies more proactive in identifying and complying with environmental safeguards under the EPBC Act.

“Professor Graeme Samuel will prepare an interim report into his review of the EPBC Act by the middle of this year, and I expect he will, in the course of the review, identify a range of measures that we can take to prevent unnecessary delays and improve environmental standards,” she said.

Ms Ley added that she would be prepared to make changes ahead of the final EPBC review report, if sensible opportunities presented themselves.

“We are getting congestion out of the system and we will continue to do so as the economy comes through the COVID-19 crisis, but we will also continue to ensure that our environment is protected and that proponents comply with environmental legislation,” she said.

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