The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 is Australia’s primary national environmental legislation and plays a critical role in safeguarding natural assets of national and international value. Recent evaluations* into the state of Australia’s environment unfortunately found all key environmental indicators have continued to decline since the EPBC Act came into force in 1999. For example, research has found:

  • Despite over 1700 threatened species being listed under the EPBC Act, Australia has one of the worst extinction rates of any nation worldwide
  • Only five critical habitats have been listed in the last 20 years, despite the loss of over 7.7 million hectares of potential habitat
  • 370,000 hectares of threatened ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act have been cleared
  • Only 7% of vegetation clearing affecting matters of national environmental significance (MNES) has been scrutinised under the EPBC Act

Healthy Land and Water has made recommendations in a submission to the independent review of the EPBC Act, coordinated by the Australian Government. This submission was conducted by the Healthy Land and Water team, supported by the expert advice of our science committee. Healthy Land and Water considers substantial improvements are required to improve the effectiveness and operation of the EPBC Act. This includes changes to its supporting governance and funding structures to improve its effectiveness and capacity to protect MNES, including:

  • Determining clear and measurable outcomes and targets
  • Developing a nationally coordinated system of data acquisition, monitoring, and mapping and reporting. This will assist with identifying variance to outcomes and targets, and informing actions to mitigate any variances
  • Embedding the Precautionary Principle within decision-making and the consideration of potential and future cumulative impacts
  • Adopting measures to incorporate the challenges of climate change and human population growth into decision making
  • Acknowledging and integrating the knowledge and rights of the community, particularly First Nations people, in environmental protection and biodiversity conservation
  • Improving the administration and approval process to achieve locally relevant actions and decisions that contribute to regional and national matters

We expect a draft report from the review in June 2020 with the final report delivered later in the year. If you would like to discuss Healthy Land and Water’s submission to the review of the EPBC Act, please get in touch by emailing

*The 2016 State of The Environment Report and OECD Environmental Performance Review: Australia 2019


Download Healthy Land and Water’s EPBC Act Review Submission below


Healthy Land and Water EPBC Act Submission

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