Rebecca Gredley OCTOBER 29 2019 – 2:38PM
Environment Minister Sussan Ley has flagged funding to help Australia’s protected marine areas.
A once-in-a-decade review of the nation’s environmental protection laws has kicked into gear, as the responsible minister flags the need for less “green tape”.
It will be led by former competition watchdog chairman Graeme Samuel, who will release a discussion paper next month.
Professor Samuel will be flanked by a panel of four experts in indigenous land management, environmental law, agriculture and farming, as well as mining.
The group will travel around Australia during the consultative year-long review, Professor Samuel said on Tuesday.
“I come with a clean sheet of paper, I have no preconceived views,” he said.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley says it’s about streamlining the process, with decisions taking more than three years on average.
“I don’t see conservation and agriculture at opposite ends of any spectrum, I see them coming together, working together,” she told reporters in Sydney.
“I do look forward to less green tape.”
Labor says the long decision-making times under the laws are a result of the government’s funding cuts to the sector.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act aims to protect areas of national environmental significance.
This includes wetlands, national world heritage areas, marine parks and habitats of migratory species.
Ms Ley also announced more than $100 million of the nearly $444 million funding to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will be used on projects to improve water quality.
On Monday, more than 240 scientists penned an open letter to the government urging the laws to be strengthened, highlighting the number of native species at risk of extinction.
The scientists pointed to three species that have been wiped out in the last decade, warning that 17 more species face extinction over the next two decades unless greater efforts are taken to protect them.
The minister would not label it a crisis.
“I prefer to look at what we can do, people will label these things as they wish but there is so much we are doing.”
The review has been widely welcomed from environment groups, the mining sector, farmers, Labor and the Greens.
Environment groups are urging the government to take the opportunity to strengthen protection of Australia’s flora and fauna.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association says there doesn’t need to be a trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth.
The National Farmers’ Federation believes the current bill doesn’t recognise the relationship between biodiversity, conservation and agriculture.
But many recommendations from the first review into the laws were not implemented, the farming group has flagged.
A draft report is set to be released in June before the final version in October.
Australian Associated Press