Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
Regulatory Reform Taskforce
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
CANBERRA ACT 2601
ACT – draft approval bilateral agreement
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
In principle FOG does not oppose the concept of a “one stop shop” for environmental approvals – it would rather see resources going into on-ground conservation rather than duplication of assessment processes. However, we do have some concerns about the draft approval bilateral agreement.
FOG notes and supports the inclusion of “promote the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources” in the Aims of this agreement (following on from our comments about the exclusion of such a statement in the draft Assessment Bilateral Agreement released for comment earlier this year).
In paragraph 6.2 (g) there is reference that this Agreement “may include a review of the effectiveness of the ACT Offsets Policy, in meeting the objectives of this clause 6.2”. Given that the ACT Offsets Policy has only just been released and that the public has not yet had the opportunity to view the ACT Environmental Offsets Calculator, FOG believes that it is essential that the ACT Offsets Policy be reviewed and its effectiveness assessed in terms of protecting matters of NES, i.e. that this paragraph should be changed to “… must include a review of the effectiveness of the ACT Offsets Policy,…”.
We note in paragraph 6.2.i) that there is no reference to the ACT Environmental Offsets Policy Delivery Framework (which until recently was part of the ACT Environmental Offsets Policy document). Since the Framework document makes reference to matters of NES and related matters referenced in this Agreement, FOG suggests that its inclusion in this section be considered.
As expressed in earlier submissions, a concern that FOG has in the bilateral agreement process is that the ACT government in fact has a conflict of interest in undertaking ACT assessments and approvals. Unlike the States, the ACT government not only has a conservation role, but also both owns the land put up for development, runs the land development agency and stands to benefit (in terms of income) from its sale to developers. For this reason, FOG believes that the public should be given the opportunity to comment in the review process (section 12.2), rather than “may” in the transitional reviews and no opportunity at all in the five year reviews.
Notification of all matters of NES needs to be centralised to ensure the public have the opportunity to comment on any State, Territory or Commonwealth matters relevant under the both the ACT and NSW bilateral agreements.
8 September 2014