BRIEF: 16 July 2009 – Environmental impact assessments for new developments are expected to be more streamlined following bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and all Australian states and territories, with Victoria and the ACT both signing agreements in the past month.

The signing of the agreements fulfils a goal set out by COAG.

Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, said there would also be room to further minimise red tape.

“This is a great step forward and I am very pleased that more streamlined environmental processes are now in place Australia wide,” Minister Garrett said.

Victoria and the ACT can now run a single environmental assessment process for projects that require environmental approval at both a federal and a state/territory level. This assessment can then be used by both levels of government in making separate approval decisions.

“Bilateral assessment agreements cut out unnecessary duplication and are a more efficient way of ensuring we uphold important state and Commonwealth environmental protection,” Mr Garrett said.

“This does not change the fact that approval for developments impacting on matters of national environmental significance sits with me.

“We have worked closely with the Victorian and ACT governments in developing these agreements and I am certain they will assist in the continued protection of the environment and our precious biodiversity.

Mr Garrett said an independent review of national environment law, the EPBC Act, is currently underway.  It will look at opportunities to further reduce the regulatory burden while maintaining appropriate and efficient environmental standards.

The agreements are in accordance with national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The bilateral agreements can be viewed at www.environment.gov.au

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au