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Our submission to the EPBC Act Review

The Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act is currently undergoing independent review and recently sought input on a discussion paper. Soils For Life prepared a submission that reflects a consolidated perspective from our engagement with our case study participants and the broader agricultural community interested in regenerating agricultural landscapes and the expertise of the SFL scientists. A draft report of the review is expected this month and the final report is due to be handed on down in October.

A summary of our recommendations

The SFL provides the following recommendations for improvements to the Act. Further detail is provided in the body of our submission.

  1. A key priority for reform should be that the Act support regenerative agricultural practices where appropriate. We propose that these practices are continuing uses as defined under the Act.
  2. Regenerative farmers are part of the wider agricultural sector. Duplication between States and Commonwealth can be reduced by a strong active leadership role from the Commonwealth and a coordinated approach from all levels of government to the rights and obligations of farmers. The Act should define national standards and objectives instead of focusing on compliance with process. The Commonwealth should establish detailed long term biodiversity goals, standards, indicators and reporting to inform policy and decision making under the Act.
  3. SFL notes the Craik Review from 2018 and believes that the issues covered and solutions proposed should be considered within the context of the EPBC Act review and in the main are supported.
  4. The approvals scheme needs to be improved upon; it should be outcomes driven and risk based, instead of process driven. Where producers undergo innovative land use change the Act should make provision for suitably qualified environmental professionals, to be appropriately recognised with qualifications and/ or certification, such as through the Certified Environmental Practitioner Scheme (CEnvP), to evaluate novel land use change to determine if it is consistent with the objectives of, and therefore allowable, under the Act.
  5. Cumulative impacts of projects at a landscape-scale should be considered within the Act, along with the need for setting regional outcomes and objectives through bilateral agreements with each state, allowing planning schemes and combined impacts to be referred to the Commonwealth for determination of potential to affect MNES.
  6. There is a need to demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of offsets through improved transparency. This must ensure that offset arrangements are demonstrably supporting the aims of the Act and are applied more consistently across landscapes.
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