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Native Vegetation

Change is needed in the way the Commonwealth Government administers the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to reduce confusion and duplication in the management of native vegetation on farms.

Issue

Since the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) was passed by the Commonwealth in 1999, the farm sector has argued that the way in which the law is applied to agricultural developments does not work.

Both State and Commonwealth laws govern the management of native vegetation on farms which results in duplication, confusion and, ultimately, inconsistencies in environmental outcomes. Determining whether you require Commonwealth approval is difficult and the process is cumbersome and expensive. The Commonwealth should align with State­based vegetation management regulation – not override it.

For farmers to be confident they are not breaching the law, they must go through a cumbersome and costly referral process. The process is one­size fits all regardless of whether the action is undertaking a small farm activity or a large development such as a new suburb or mine.

The way that the EPBC Act is administered is a major barrier to farmers adopting modern agricultural practices. For example, the way that the administration of the Act seeks to protect isolated paddock trees that may have debatable conservation value hinders the adoption of controlled traffic farming in many cropping zones.

It is important farmers are aware of their legal responsibilities under the EPBC Act. Many farmers are unaware that the Act may even apply to them, as resources to proactively communicate to the farm sector have been stripped from the Department over time

Background

The EPBC Act protects matters of national environmental significance, including threatened and migratory species, wetlands, endangered ecological communities and national heritage properties. Where a proposed activity may have a significant impact on a protected matter, the activity should be referred to the Commonwealth Department of the Environment for assessment, and where required, approval. 

What the industry needs

  • Investment in proactive education and awareness, so that farmers can navigate their legal responsibilities. This includes preparing guidelines – suited for farming situations – that can assist farmers make a decisions. 
  • Further streamlining of State and Commonwealth vegetation management laws, to reduce red tape and reduce confusion. 
  • Reducing complexity in Commonwealth approvals – a multi­step referral process; an offsets policy that suits the farming context while protecting high conservation value vegetation, and a sensible approach to managing isolated paddock trees.

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