WWF-Australia has welcomed a bill to establish a Commonwealth Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to finally enforce Australia’s nature laws.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie will introduce the bill into the lower house this morning. It calls for the creation of an independent EPA to enforce the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC), legislation that is meant to protect Australia's threatened species and their habitats.
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said: “This EPA bill is an opportunity to stop the devastating decline of our wildlife and wild places.”
“It would put a truly independent cop on the beat with the resources to audit major projects, enforce our laws and ensure every Australian, business and industry is doing the right thing for nature.
“We commend Mr Wilkie for being the first to put an EPA into legislation. We hope this bill gets the attention it deserves and is considered by a parliamentary committee,” said Mr O’Gorman.
Former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel recently finished a one-in-a-decade review of the EPBC Act and found it was failing to protect the environment. More than 55,000 Australians
have signed a petition by WWF-Australia calling on the federal government to amend the Act to create an EPA charged with enforcement.
Instead the government is proposing an environmental assurance commissioner with no power to investigate individual decisions related to projects.
WWF-Australia’s Chief Conservation Officer Rachel Lowry said: “The proposed assurance commissioner is a weak model and destined to be ineffective.”
“An independent watchdog must be at the heart of any reforms. It’s the only way to ensure our nature laws are properly enforced without political interference.
“Lack of compliance and enforcement is the single greatest failing of the EPBC Act. Over 93%
of known threatened species habitat destruction has occurred without any referral, assessment or approval.
“If we continue to let people bend and break the rules at this scale, the loss to Australia will be irreversible.
“We have a once-in-a decade opportunity to turn around Australia’s extinction crisis. It is time to end the large-scale destruction of threatened species habitat. It is time for everyone to start following our nature laws, and to have an independent body in place to make sure they do,” said Ms Lowry.