A crack down on deforestation on the way with EPA and EIA

With rampant deforestation across the country and a biodiversity crisis playing out, a new nature watchdog and transparent conservation data are welcome developments, but don’t go far enough to stop more Australian plants and animals dying out this decade.

The second stage of nature positive reforms were introduced into parliament today, setting up Environment Protection Australia and Environment Information Australia.

The EPA will play a key role in cracking down on illegal deforestation and broadscale land clearing of threatened species habitat. A joint investigation found six instances of deforestation in Queensland alone that were not referred for assessment under the current EPBC Act. 

The Queensland Conservation Council is calling on the federal government to introduce the full suite of nature positive reforms including National Environmental Standards to keep momentum up and ensure no new extinctions this decade. 

Queensland Conservation Council Director, Dave Copeman said

Queensland Conservation Council welcomes the introduction today of legislation to the Federal Parliament to create Environmental Protection Australia and Environmental Information Australia. 

However, the key part of the reforms nature needs urgently is the National Environmental Standards, including a standard to develop regional plans that will lay out a traffic light approach to show where development can and cannot occur whilst setting up clear conservation zones. This is critical so we can manage the energy transition while making sure nature is prioritised. 

In an extinction crisis, we need real investigations, not tick and flick approvals. While Minister Plibersek has demonstrated strong action with recent rejections, for too long the EPBC assessment has been long, complex and ultimately unsuccessful, with too many damaging projects approved, such as Olive Downs coal mine.

Now the Queensland Government must act, and create our own EPA, with similar powers to investigate and reject projects that will impact on threatened species or ecological communities.   

Environment Information Australia is long overdue, and an excellent initiative. Conservation data can be impossible to obtain, with many datasets not publicly available and lacking transparency. EIA must ensure the compulsory disclosure of data from scientists assessing environmental impacts.

The future of conservation data will include thousands of data points coming from photos from people’s phones, with expert-reviewed citizen science the future of collective action to save threatened species. Significant investment is required to set up and support these programs.