The federal government’s latest attempt to reform Australia’s environment law is much more about making things easier for the resources sector than protecting nature, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Resources Minister Keith Pitt today announced the federal budget will include $128.5 million for environmental law reform.

The ministers said 10 new regional plans would remove the need for project-by-project approvals under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

“While regional planning has merits, we are concerned the government’s approach appears to focus on making things easier for resource extraction industries, rather than protecting nature,” said ACF’s national biodiversity policy adviser Sophie Power.

“To tackle Australia’s extinction crisis we need strong national environment protection laws.

“Without robust standards to protect nature, fast tracked approvals will fast track extinction.

“A 2021 study found 19 Australian ecosystems, including the Murray-Darling river system, the Monaro Tablelands and northern Australia’s tropical savannahs, are at risk of collapse.

“Koalas have recently been uplisted to ‘endangered’ in Queensland, NSW and the ACT.

“Now would be a reckless time to make changes that could result in more threatened species habitat being destroyed for commercial projects.

“We urge the government to provide more information about its proposed regional planning approach – including which 10 areas are to designated ‘priority development regions’.

“Environmental offset schemes have been shown to be ineffective – and have actually facilitated the decline of threatened species – so we need more detail about what the government’s aim is when it says it will ‘modernise the environmental offsets policy’.

“Professor Graeme Samuel’s comprehensive once-in-a-decade review of the EPBC Act found it to be ‘ineffective’ and ‘not fit to address current or future environmental challenges.’

“ACF calls on the Environment Minister to focus a little less on boosting investor confidence and a little more on making sure our grandchildren will be able to see koalas in the wild when they grow up.”

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