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Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Section 516 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) requires the secretary to prepare an annual report on the operation of the Act and for the minister to lay a copy of this report before the Parliament of Australia. This section provides the report for 2020–21.

Environmental referrals, assessments and approvals

Matters of national environmental significance

The EPBC Act provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places. In the Act, these are called matters of national environmental significance. There are 9 matters of national environmental significance.

Under the EPBC Act, landowners, developers, companies, individuals and governments must seek Commonwealth approval for proposed actions that might have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance. A proponent must refer their proposed action to the minister for consideration.

After receiving a valid referral, the minister or their delegate has 20 business days to decide whether the proposed action triggers the matters protected by the EPBC Act. The process includes a public consultation period for relevant governments and members of the public to comment on the proposed action. The minister or their delegate then decides whether the proposed action will need formal assessment and approval under the Act. This is known as the ‘referral decision’.

We publish referrals and relevant statutory documents associated with a proposed action on our environment assessment and approval process website.

The following tables summarise EPBC Act referrals, approvals, assessments, matters of national environmental significance, and proposals involving the Commonwealth.

Table 27 EPBC Act referrals and approval of actions

Item

2020–21

Total since 2000

Referrals received

257

6,866

Referrals withdrawn

40

692

Referrals where a decision has been made

237

6,330

Approval required – controlled action

138

2,100

Approval not required – action to be taken in a particular manner

14

1,097

Approval not required – no conditions on action

83

3,120

Action clearly unacceptable

2

13

Referrals lapsed

16

120

Actions approved

69

1,204

Actions not approved

2

13

Note: There may be differences when compared with previous years. This is because of improved data integrity. This table is an accurate reflection of referral data as of 1 July 2021.

Table 28 Decisions on EPBC Act referrals by jurisdiction

Jurisdiction

Action clearly unacceptable

Approval required (CA)

Approval not required (PM)

Approval not required (NCA)

Total decisions

Australian Capital Territory

0

5

1

4

10

Christmas Island

0

0

0

1

1

Commonwealth marine

0

0

0

2

2

New South Wales

0

28

1

19

48

Northern Territory

0

3

1

2

6

Queensland

1

36

0

11

48

South Australia

0

0

1

5

6

Tasmania

0

8

1

1

10

Victoria

0

21

5

7

33

Western Australia

1

37

4

31

73

Total

2

138

14

83

237

CA controlled action. PM action to be taken in a particular manner. NCA not controlled action.

Table 29 Decisions on EPBC Act referrals by activity category

Activity category

Action clearly unacceptable

Approval required (CA)

Approval not required (PM)

Approval not required (NCA)

Total decisions

Agriculture and forestry

0

4

1

0

5

Aquaculture

0

2

0

0

2

Commercial development

0

10

0

4

14

Commonwealth

0

1

1

6

8

Commonwealth development

0

0

0

1

1

Energy generation and supply (non-renewable)

0

7

0

5

12

Energy generation and supply (renewable)

1

23

3

10

37

Exploration (mineral, oil and gas – non-marine)

0

1

1

1

3

Manufacturing

0

1

0

1

2

Mining

0

25

1

7

33

Natural resources management

0

0

0

3

3

Private

0

2

0

2

4

Residential development

1

16

1

18

36

Science and research

0

0

0

1

1

Telecommunications

0

0

0

2

2

Tourism and recreation

0

6

1

2

9

Transport – land

0

24

3

10

37

Transport – water

0

2

0

2

4

Waste management (non-sewerage)

0

2

0

2

4

Waste management (sewerage)

0

2

0

1

3

Water management and use

0

10

2

5

17

Total

2

138

14

83

237

CA controlled action. PM action to be taken in a particular manner. NCA not controlled action.

Table 30 Decisions on assessment approach by type

Type

Jurisdiction

Assessments active

Assessments complete

Assessments withdrawn

Assessments lapsed

Preliminary documentation – further information required

Commonwealth

62

4

1

0

Preliminary documentation – no further information required

Commonwealth

0

2

0

0

Public environment report

Commonwealth

4

0

2

0

Referral information

Commonwealth

1

0

0

0

Environmental impact statement

Commonwealth

0

0

0

0

Bilateral assessment

State/territory

36

0

0

0

Accredited process

State/territory

27

1

0

0

Total

130

7

3

0

Table 31 Matters of national environmental significance considered in relation to impacts of proposed action

Section of Act

Matter protected

Action clearly unacceptable

NCA – PM

Controlled action

12

World Heritage values of a World Heritage listed property

0

1

18

15B

National Heritage values of a National Heritage listed place

0

2

21

16

Ecological character of a declared Ramsar wetland

1

3

11

18

Listed threatened species or ecological community

0

12

140

20

Listed migratory species

1

4

38

21

Nuclear activities with a significant impact on the environment

0

0

3

23

Commonwealth marine environment

0

0

1

24A

Commonwealth marine environment actions by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth agency

0

0

0

24B

Activities in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

0

0

6

24D

Large coal mine or coal seam gas project that affects at least one water resource

0

0

7

Total

2

22

245

Note: This table refers to matters considered in 2020–21 by EPBC Act section and decision, regardless of the number of referrals received. NCA not controlled action. PM action to be taken in a particular manner.

Table 32 Proposals involving the Commonwealth considered in relation to impacts of proposed action

Section of Act

Matter protected

Action clearly unacceptable

NCA – PM

Controlled action

26

Commonwealth land

0

1

4

27B

Activities involving Commonwealth Heritage listed places overseas

0

0

0

28

Commonwealth or Commonwealth agency activity

0

1

2

Total

0

2

6

Note: This table refers to matters considered in 2020–21 by EPBC Act section and decision, regardless of the number of referrals received. NCA not controlled action. PM action to be taken in a particular manner.

Actions by the Australian Government and actions on Commonwealth land

The EPBC Act regulates actions that have a significant impact on the environment where the actions affect, or are taken, on Commonwealth land, in a Commonwealth marine area or that are carried out by an Australian Government agency. This includes the disposal of Commonwealth land.

In 2020–21 the minister made:

  • 5 determinations for projects involving Commonwealth land (section 26)
  • 3 determinations for an action carried out by an Australian Government agency (section 28)
  • 1 determination where the action will be taken in a Commonwealth marine environment (section 23).

We received 8 requests for advice on proposals involving Commonwealth airports from Airservices Australia and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. The minister’s delegate determined that advice was required for 4 of the proposals. Of these, one decision was made and 3 advices are pending.

Strategic assessments

Strategic assessments under Part 10 of the EPBC Act can deliver greater economic certainty and administrative efficiencies for business and regulators. They help deliver strategic outcomes for the protection of matters of national environmental significance.

Actions covered by a strategic assessment approval and taken in accordance with the endorsed plan do not require any further assessment or approval from the Commonwealth.

Antarctic Treaty environment protection

The EPBC Act exempts certain actions from requiring permits if a permit for that action has been issued under the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 (ATEP Act). The EPBC Act states that, where an action is taken in accordance with a permit issued under the ATEP Act and the permit is in force, certain actions involving listed threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species and listed marine species are not offences.

In 2020–21 the minister granted 2 permits under the ATEP Act that applied such exemptions.

Access to biological resources and benefit sharing

Part 8A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 controls access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas for the purposes of research on and development of genetic resources and biochemical compounds.

We issued 34 permits for access to biological resources in Commonwealth areas in 2020–21.

Cetacean permits

The Australian Whale Sanctuary is all Commonwealth waters from the 3 nautical mile state waters limit out to the boundary of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In this area a permit under the EPBC Act is required to take, trade, keep, move or interfere with (harass, chase, herd, tag, mark or brand) a cetacean, or to possess or treat (divide or cut up, or extract any product from) a cetacean. Australian residents must obtain a permit to carry out such activities in waters beyond the sanctuary – that is, in international or foreign waters.

In 2020–21 Australia granted 4 cetacean permits (Table 33). We did not vary the conditions of any existing cetacean permits.

Table 33 Applications and permits for cetacean research or impacts

EPBC Act paragraph

Applications received

Permits granted

Varied/revoked conditions

Suspended or cancelled

238(3)(a) cetacean conservation

2

2

0

0

238(3)(b) incidental interference with cetaceans

2

2

0

0

238(3)(c) whale watching

0

0

0

0

Protection of species and ecological communities

Species and ecological community listing assessment outcomes

The minister may list threatened fauna and flora in 6 categories defined by the EPBC Act. These are extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable and conservation-dependent.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee advises the minister on the following categories:

  • Ecological communities listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. Those listed as critically endangered and endangered are matters of national environmental significance.
  • Species listed as extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. These are matters of national environmental significance.

In 2020–21 the Threatened Species Scientific Committee provided advice to the minister about 5 ecological communities and 54 species. The minister made listing decisions for 4 ecological communities and 54 species under the EPBC Act. We updated the names of 9 threatened species on the list.

Table 34 summarises the ministerial decisions about the lists of threatened species, ecological communities and key threatening processes. Table 35 and Table 36 provide the listed status of the ecological communities and species.

Table 34 Ministerial listing decisions – threatened species, ecological communities and key threatening processes

Item

Species

Ecological communities

Key threatening processes

New listings

31

4

0

Transfer to a higher threat category within the list

10

0

n/a

Transfer to a lower threat category within the list

0

0

n/a

Deleted from the list

5

0

n/a

Determined a distinct population of biological entity as a species for the purpose of the EPBC Act

1

n/a

n/a

Ineligible (no amendment to list)

2

0

0

No change in status (no amendment to list)

5

0

n/a

Totals

54

4

0

n/a not applicable.

Table 35 Ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act

Status

No.

Ecological community

Listed as critically endangered

3

Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest in the Sydney Basin bioregion

Plains Mallee Box Woodlands of the Murray–Darling Depression, Riverina and Naracoorte Coastal Plains bioregions

River-flat eucalypt forest on coastal floodplains of southern NSW and eastern Victoria

Listed as endangered

1

Karst springs and associated alkaline fens of the Naracoorte Coastal Plain bioregion

Table 36 Species listed under the EPBC Act

Status

No.

Species scientific name

Listed as extinct a

10

Bettongia anhydra

Bettongia pusilla

Conilurus capricornensis

Notomys robustus

Perameles myosurus

Perameles notina

Perameles papillon

Pseudomys auritus

Pseudomys glaucus

Pteropus brunneus

Listed as critically endangered

12

Acacia dangarensis

Antrophyum austroqueenslandicum

Asterolasia beckersii

Galaxias tantangara

Nitella parooensis

Pimelea cremnophila

Pomaderris walshii

Rhizanthella johnstonii

Rhodamnia rubescens

Rhodomyrtus psidioides

Spyridium fontis-woodii

Zieria odorifera subspecies warrabahensis

Listed as endangered

4

Dendronephthya australis

Gaultheria viridicarpa

Hippocampus whitei

Uperoleia mahonyi

Listed as vulnerable

5

Grevillea raybrownii

Helichrysum calvertianum

Nannoperca australis Murray–Darling Basin lineage

Trichosurus vulpecula arnhemensis

Persoonia mollis subspecies revoluta

Transferred from critically endangered to extinct

2

Emoia nativitatis

Pipistrellus murrayi

Transferred from endangered to critically endangered

2

Rhizanthella gardneri

Zieria buxijugum

Transferred from vulnerable to critically endangered

2

Prostanthera staurophylla

Plinthanthesis rodwayi

Transferred from vulnerable to endangered

4

Diuris aequalis

Neophoca cinerea

Notomys aquilo

Petrogale lateralis kimberleyensis

Retained as extinct

1

Perameles fasciata

Retained as critically endangered

1

Miniopterus orianae bassanii

Retained as endangered

3

Dasyurus maculatus maculatus (SE mainland population)

Pseudomys fumeus

Pseudomys oralis

Removed from the endangered category in the list of threatened species

3

Cajanus mareebensis

Litoria nannotis

Litoria rheocola

Removed from the vulnerable category in the list of threatened species

2

Gaultheria viridicarpa J.B. Williams subspecies viridicarpa ms.

Philotheca sporadica

Ineligible for listing

1

Lerista lineata

Nannoperca australis

Determined a distinct population of biological entity as a species for the purposes of the EPBC Act

1

Nannoperca australis Murray–Darling Basin lineage

a These historically extinct mammals have been acknowledged in the scientific community for some time. Most have not been seen since before 1950, with some disappearing around the time of European settlement. Formally recognising these species extinctions ensures the EPBC Act list of threatened species is accurate.

Conservation advice and recovery plans

The EPBC Act requires approved conservation advice to be in place from the time of listing for a threatened species or ecological community (except for listings as extinct and conservation‑dependent). The EPBC Act also provides for the making or adopting of recovery plans, where the minister decides that a recovery plan is required.

Approved conservation advice documents provide immediate guidance on recovery and threat abatement activities. They are the foundation for planning and provide research priorities to support the recovery of listed species or ecological communities. Recovery plans set out the research and management actions needed to stop decline and support the recovery of listed species or ecological communities.

Where a listed species or ecological community requires a conservation planning document, they will have a recovery plan, an approved conservation advice, or both (see Table 37). In 2020–21:

  • conservation advice documents were approved for 35 species and 4 ecological communities, including those approved with a listing decision
  • 3 recovery plans came into force (Table 38)
  • 3 final draft recovery plans were provided to the states and territories to jointly make with the Commonwealth
  • 5 draft recovery plans were released for comment on our recovery plans website.
Table 37 Threatened species and ecological communities covered by recovery plans and conservation advice documents on 30 June 2021

Item

Species

Ecological communities

Total

Listed threatened species and ecological communities

1,918

88

2,006

Listed threatened species and ecological communities requiring a conservation planning document (entities not listed as extinct or conservation dependent)

1,806

88

1,894

Listed threatened entities covered by approved conservation advice

1,433

73

1,506

Listed threatened entities covered by recovery plans in force

718

27

745

Listed threatened entities requiring recovery plans but not covered by a recovery plan in force

139

30

169

Table 38 Recovery plans made or adopted in 2020–21

Recovery plan

Date made or adopted

Listed threatened entities covered by plan

National Recovery Plan for the Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus orianae bassanii

5 November 2020

Miniopterus orianae bassanii

National Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus

19 March 2021

Pteropus poliocephalus

National Recovery Plan for the White-throated Snapping Turtle Elseya albagula

24 April 2021

Elseya albagula

Key threatening processes and threat abatement plans

The EPBC Act provides for the listing of key threatening processes. A threatening process is one that threatens or may threaten the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community. Table 39 details all listed threatening processes.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee advises the minister on the listing of key threatening processes and on the need for a threat abatement plan or other action. In 2020–21 the committee progressed its assessment of fire regimes that cause biodiversity decline. We expect the committee’s advice on this key threatening process in late 2021.

The minister agreed that a threat abatement plan is not the most feasible, effective or efficient way to abate the key threatening process for incidental catch (bycatch) of sea turtles during otter-trawling operations within Australian waters north of 280° South.

In 2020–21 there were:

  • no amendments to the list of key threatening processes
  • no threat abatement plans made or adopted (see our threat abatement plans website)
  • no draft plans released for comment.
Table 39 Key threatening processes and threat abatement plans at 30 June 2021

Key threatening process

Date of effect

Plan required

Plan approved

Competition and land degradation by feral rabbits

16 July 2000

Yes

Yes

Competition and land degradation by unmanaged goats

16 July 2000

Yes

Yes

Dieback caused by the root-rot fungus (Phytopthora cinnamomi)

16 July 2000

Yes

Yes

Incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations

16 July 2000

Yes

Yes

Predation by European red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

16 July 2000

Yes

Yes

Predation by feral cats

16 July 2000

Yes

Yes

Land clearance

4 April 2001

No

n/a

Loss of terrestrial climatic habitat caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases

4 April 2001

No

n/a

Psittacine circoviral (beak and feather) disease affecting endangered psittacine species

4 April 2001

No

n/a

Incidental catch (bycatch) of sea turtles during coastal otter-trawling operations within Australian waters north of 28°S

4 April 2001

No

n/a

Predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission by feral pigs

6 August 2001

Yes

Yes

Infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis

23 July 2002

Yes

Yes

Reduction in the biodiversity of Australian native fauna and flora due to red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)

2 April 2003

No

n/a

Injury and fatality to vertebrate marine life caused by ingestion of, or entanglement in, harmful marine debris

13 August 2003

Yes

Yes

Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity following invasion by the yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepsis gracilipes) on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean

12 April 2005

No

n/a

Biological effects, including lethal toxic ingestion, caused by cane toads (Bufo marinus)

12 April 2005

Yes

Yes

Predation by exotic rats on Australian offshore islands of less than 1,000 km2 (100,000 ha)

29 March 2006

Yes

Yes

Invasion of northern Australia by gamba grass and other introduced grasses

16 September 2009

Yes

Yes

Loss and degradation of native plant and animal habitat by invasion of escaped garden plants, including aquatic plans

8 January 2010

No

n/a

Novel biota and its impact on biodiversity

26 February 2013

No

n/a

Aggressive exclusion of birds from potential woodland and forest habitat by overabundant noisy miners (Manorina melanocephela)

9 May 2014

No

n/a

n/a not applicable.

Migratory species

The EPBC Act provides for the protection and conservation of migratory species.

In October 2020 the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) was added to the migratory species list under paragraph 209(3)(a) of the Act. The basis for the listing decision was inclusion of the shark in Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention). Australia is a range state for this species.

In October 2020 the wanderer butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was removed from the migratory species list. The basis for the listing decision was that it is not classified as a migratory species for Australia.

International wildlife trade and management

Trade in Australian native species and species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is regulated under Part 13A of the EPBC Act.

Under the Act we can grant approvals to export specimens derived from regulated native species, export CITES-listed species or import CITES-listed animals. We assess the sustainability of any operation that seeks to export regulated native specimens or CITES-listed species. An approved wildlife trade program must be in place. We monitor approved operations to track progress against conditions and assessment recommendations.

To combat wildlife crime, we work with international partners, Commonwealth agencies and state regulators. This includes INTERPOL, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, state and territory police, and environmental agencies.

Trade of live animals

We work to ensure that live animals that are exported or imported are going to facilities that can suitably receive and house them.

In 2020–21 we assessed the welfare requirements for the holding of 60 species in zoo and aquarium facilities. We entered into 2 new agreements with overseas institutions. These prescribe the care requirements for iconic native species held in the institutions.

Import of wildlife products

Part 13A of the EPBC Act requires permits for import of most types of wildlife into Australia.

In 2020–21 we issued 1,572 permits for the import of wildlife, which was a decrease of 11.5% from the previous year. The permits included 1,541 for CITES-listed wildlife, 15 for non-CITES-listed live animals, and 16 testing permits.

Species most often covered by import permits include American alligators, pythons, monitors, and crocodiles. Almost all permits for reptile species were associated with fashion items such as handbags, shoes, watchstraps and belts. The top 10 species covered by wildlife import permits in 2020–21 are in Table 40.

Table 40 Top 10 species covered by EPBC Act wildlife import permits

Species

Number of import permits issued

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

632

Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)

147

Common water monitor, Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator)

137

Burmese python (Python bivittatus)

121

Reticulated python (Python reticulatus)

109

Common or spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

95

Saltwater crocodile, estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

87

Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii)

76

Nile monitor, water leguaan (Varanus niloticus)

54

Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii)

40

When CITES-listed species (including their parts and derivatives) are imported into Australia without the required permits, they may be seized. In 2020–21 the most common items seized were reptile leather products (watchstraps or handbags made of CITES-listed crocodile or alligator). The top 10 items seized under the EPBC Act in 2020–21 are in Table 41.

Table 41 Top 10 items seized under the EPBC Act

Species

Number of seizures

Crocodylia spp

37

Elephantidae spp

17

Plantae spp

13

Bovidae spp

9

Snake (Serpentes spp)

8

Lizard (Squamata spp)

6

Bear (Ursidae spp)

5

Ginseng (Panax spp)

4

Seahorses (Hippocampus spp)

4

Primate spp

4

Zebra (Equidae spp)

4

spp multiple species.

Live import list

The live import list, created under section 303EB of the EPBC Act, provides the species and specimens that may be imported live into Australia. A person cannot legally import live specimens of a species not included in the list, even if it has been imported previously or is known to be in Australia already. Anyone may apply to the minister to amend the live import list to include a new species.

In 2020–21 the minister approved 6 additions to the live import list:

  • Additions to Part 1 of the live import list:
    • Cornu aspersum (common garden snail)
    • Listronotus appendiculatus (weevil)
    • Glossolepis leggetti (Leggett’s rainbowfish) of minimum length 4 cm (standard length)
    • Hydrotimetes natans (weevil)
    • sterile Cydia pomonella (codling moth).
  • Addition to Part 2 of the live import list:
    • Mustela putorius furo (domestic ferret) (research only, high-security facilities only).

The minister decided to not add Otocyon megalotis (bat-eared fox) and Saguinus labiatus (red-bellied tamarin) to the live import list.

We are assessing 13 applications for amendment to the live import list.

We received 2 applications to include potential biocontrol agents in the live import list. These will not be assessed for import unless testing indicates their efficacy as biocontrol agents.

Export of wildlife products

Part 13A of the EPBC Act requires permits to be issued for the export of regulated native species and most types of CITES-listed species. Wildlife harvesting for export is required to be ecologically sustainable and, for live animals, must meet all welfare requirements.

Commercial exports of items containing native or CITES-listed species must be sourced from a program that demonstrates the ecological sustainability of the harvest. Excluding commercial fisheries, in 2020–21 we approved the following:

  • 1 artificial propagation program (orchids)
  • 1 aquaculture program (lungfish)
  • 1 wildlife trade management plan (crocodiles)
  • 1 captive breeding program (clams)
  • 7 non-fisheries wildlife trade operations (kangaroos, lungfish, snake venom, Kakadu plum and invertebrates).

In 2020–21 Australia issued 638 export permits and certificates. This was 10.8% lower than the previous year. Of these, 528 were for the export of CITES-listed wildlife and 110 were for native species (non-CITES-listed wildlife). We also issued 5,514 personal baggage permits for the export of personal items containing CITES-listed products. This was a 59.4% decrease from the previous year.

The species most often covered by wildlife export permits include Australian saltwater crocodiles, corals, American alligators, kangaroos and clams. Exports of crocodile, monitor and alligator products are generally associated with fashion items such as handbags, shoes, watchstraps and belts. Corals were usually exported live in the aquarium trade. Kangaroos were generally exported as meat and skins.

The top 10 species covered by export permits in 2020–21 are in Table 42. Export permits often allow multiple shipments of the species under each permit. This means the volume of export is likely to be far greater than is represented in the permit data.

Table 42 Top 10 species covered by wildlife export permits

Species

Number of export permits issued

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

153

Saltwater crocodile, estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

89

Stony coral (order: Scleractinia)

79

Corals (class: Anthozoa)

76

Corals (class: Hydrozoa)

75

Eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus)

23

Red kangaroo (Macropus rufus)

21

Elongate giant clam (Tridacna maxima)

21

Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)

20

Reticulated python (Python reticulatus)

15

Protection of natural and cultural places and values

Each year the minister is required to set a Finalised Priority Assessment List of places for the Australian Heritage Council to assess for their heritage values. The list is published on our Heritage website.

World Heritage List

Australia has 20 properties on the World Heritage List. No properties were added in 2020–21.

National Heritage List

In 2020–21 the minister added 2 places to the National Heritage List. These were Parkes Observatory and the Governors’ Domain and Civic Precinct. Both are in New South Wales. The National Heritage List had 119 places at 30 June 2021.

In 2020–21 the Australian Heritage Council approved 4 heritage management plans for listed places.

Commonwealth Heritage List

The minister added West Portal Cafeteria in the Australian Capital Territory to the Commonwealth Heritage List. The list had 389 places at 30 June 2021.

Guidelines on the management requirements for Commonwealth Heritage places are on our heritage website.

Fisheries assessments and approvals

We assess management arrangements for Australian fisheries that have an export component, operate in Commonwealth waters or are managed by the Commonwealth. The assessments are against the Guidelines for the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries. They aim to determine:

  • impacts of actions taken under a fishery management or regime on matters of national environmental significance (Part 10 of EPBC Act)
  • impacts of fishery operations on cetaceans, threatened species, migratory species, marine species and threatened ecological communities listed under the Part 13 of EPBC Act
  • extent to which the fishery is managed in an ecologically sustainable way, including the take of any species listed under CITES (Part 13A of EPBC Act).

We assessed 17 fisheries in 2020–21. Of these, 7 were Commonwealth-managed and 10 were managed by a state or territory. Fifteen fisheries were approved as wildlife trade operations for up to 3 years. Fifteen fisheries were exempted from the export permit provisions of the EPBC Act for between 3 months and 10 years.

Following assessment and when required, we impose conditions or recommendations to maintain or improve the ecologically sustainable management of the fisheries in the short to medium term. We work with fishery management agencies and stakeholders to ensure these conditions are targeted, achievable and reasonable.

Table 43 lists the assessments in 2020–21. We publish the fisheries assessments and their outcomes on our fisheries assessments website.

Table 43 EPBC Act assessments of Commonwealth and state-managed fisheries

Jurisdiction

Fishery

Assessment decision

Decision date

Expiry date

Queensland

Commercial Trawl (Fin Fish) Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

19 August 2021

31 August 2023

Victoria

Corner Inlet Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS

17 September 2020

31 August 2023

Queensland

Sea Cucumber Fishery (East Coast)

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

25 September 2020

30 September 2021

Commonwealth

Australian export from New and Exploratory Fisheries in CCAMLR statistical divisions 58.4.1 and 58.4.2

Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

26 November 2020

27 November 2025

Commonwealth

Ross Sea Exploratory Toothfish Fishery in CCAMLR region (statistical subareas 88.1 and 88.2)

Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

26 November 2020

27 November 2025

Tasmania

Marine Plants Fishery

WTO

3 December 2020

5 December 2023

Commonwealth

Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery

WTO

4 December 2020

4 December 2023

Commonwealth

Western Trawl Fisheries

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

15 December 2020

30 November 2023

Commonwealth

Torres Strait Bêche-de-mer Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

23 December 2020

30 November 2023

Commonwealth

Torres Strait Finfish Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

23 December 2020

1 November 2023

Commonwealth

Coral Sea Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

7 January 2021

6 January 2024

Western Australia

Pilbara Trap Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS

7 January 2021

9 January 2024

Western Australia

South Coast Crustacean Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

21 January 2021

26 January 2024

Queensland

Line Fishery (Reef)

WTO; Exempt LENS

22 January 2021

18 January 2024

Queensland

Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS

25 March 2021

30 January 2024

Queensland

Aquarium Fish Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS; Part 13 accreditation

23 April 2021

23 April 2024

Queensland

Ocean Beach Fishery

WTO; Exempt LENS

21 May 2021

1 May 2024

WTO Approval of a wildlife trade operation. Exempt LENS Fishery is managed sustainably and added to the List of Exempt Native Specimens (LENS). Part 13 accreditation Approval of a management plan or regime that ensures fishers take all reasonable steps to avoid killing or injuring protected species (no expiry date). CCAMLR Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Compliance and enforcement

Compliance helps to ensure our laws are achieving the outcomes they were designed to deliver. Our Compliance Plan 2019–23 sets out annual priority compliance outcomes.

The EPBC Act provides for enforcement mechanisms for managing suspected or identified instances of non-compliance and for reviewing the compliance of referred projects. Enforcement mechanisms include environmental audits, infringement notices, and civil and criminal penalties. Remediation orders and determinations may require repair or mitigation of environmental damage.

In 2020–21 we took the following compliance actions under section 142B of the EPBC Act:

  • In August 2020 we issued 2 infringement notices to CRWF Trust (known as CRWF Nominees Pty Ltd) totalling $26,640 for non-compliance with conditions attached to approval EPBC 2011/6206.
  • In September 2020 we issued 2 infringement notices to Narre Warren Central Pty Ltd totalling $26,640 for non-compliance with conditions attached to EPBC 2014/7380.
  • In October 2020 we issued 2 infringement notices to Adani Mining Pty Ltd totalling $25,920 for non-compliance with conditions attached to EPBC 2010/5736.

The minister’s delegate signed one remediation determination and is reviewing a remediation determination. The matters are as follows:

  • In March 2021 the delegate signed a remediation determination requiring a landowner to repair damage caused by earthworks and drainage by reversing the alterations to the landform. The earthworks and drainage impacted 9 hectares of seasonal herbaceous wetlands (freshwater) of the temperate lower plains near Streatham Victoria. The works contravened Part 3 of the EPBC Act. The remediation determination provides a balanced compliance response and a positive environmental outcome for the protection of wetlands that are listed as a threatened ecological community and protected under the Act.
  • In May 2020 we received an application for reconsideration (Jam Land Pty Ltd) of a remediation determination under section 480J of the EPBC Act. The delegate is reviewing the matter to either affirm, vary or set aside the determination.

In 2020–21 the courts determined 6 matters:

  • In December 2020 a Sydney person was sentenced to imprisonment for 3 years with a non‑parole period of 18 months. This was for attempting to export live regulated native specimens through the post on 2 occasions and for one count of money laundering.
  • In February 2021 a Sydney person was sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months to be served by way of an intensive corrections order (ICO). This was after pleading guilty to one count of importing a CITES-listed specimen.
  • In February 2021 a Sydney person was sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years with a 2‑year and 10‑month non-parole period. The offences related to possession of 105 non-native wildlife and the attempted export of 17 parcels. The person was found guilty of 13 counts of attempted export of native specimens, 3 counts of possession of CITES-listed specimens and 2 counts of possession of regulated live specimens.
  • In February 2021 a Sydney person was sentenced to imprisonment for 2 years and 10 months to be served by way of an ICO. The offences related to possession of 105 non-native wildlife and the attempted export of 10 parcels. The person was found guilty of 8 counts of attempted export of native specimens, 3 counts of possession of CITES-listed specimens and 2 counts of possession of regulated live specimens.
  • In March 2021 a Sydney person was sentenced to imprisonment for 3 years and 6 months with a non-parole period of 2 years and 4 months. This was for 9 counts of attempt export of regulated Australian natives.
  • In April 2021 a Sydney person was sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months to be served by way of an ICO and 100 hours of community service. This was for possessing more than 140 native and CITES listed specimens.

Decision-making

Statement of reasons

Section 13 of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 provides that a person aggrieved by a decision made under legislation may request a statement setting out the findings on material questions of fact, referring to the evidence or other material on which those findings were based and giving the reasons for the decision (statement of reasons). Additionally, sections 77(4)(b) and 78C(4)(b) of the EPBC Act allow people to request a statement of reasons about controlled action decisions and the reconsideration of controlled action decisions.

In 2020–21 we provided the following statements of reasons:

  • 3 were for decisions under Part 13A of the EPBC Act
  • 2 for a referral decision under section 74B
  • 12 for referral decisions under section 75 and/or assessment approach decisions under section 87
  • 2 for assessment approach decisions under section 87
  • 5 for approval decisions under sections 130 and 133
  • 6 for a variation to conditions decision under section 143.

Reconsideration of a decision

Under section 78 of the EPBC Act, reconsideration of a referral decision under section 75 is available in limited circumstances. Typically, reconsiderations are completed on request when there is substantial new information or a substantial change in the likely effects on protected matters.

In 2020–21 the minister or their delegate made 237 referral decisions and reconsidered one referral decision.

Meeting statutory time frames

The EPBC Act and regulations specify time frames within which decisions must be made and other actions completed. If time frames are not met, section 518 requires the department to provide a statement setting out the reasons for the delay. Decisions not made within statutory time frames in 2020–21 and the reasons for delay are in Table 44.

Table 44 Decisions under EPBC Act that did not meet statutory time frames

Section

Number

Late

Reason for delay

74B(1) Action clearly unacceptable decision

2

1

Administrative delays

75(5) Decision on whether action needs approval

235

4

Legal issues, administrative error, further consultation within department

77(1) Notice of decision on whether action needs approval

235

3

Administrative delays

77(4) Controlled action timing of reasons for decision

12

11

Administrative delays, availability of decision maker

88(1) Assessment approach decision

100

5

Legal issues, administrative error, further consultation within department

91(1) Notice of decision on assessment approach

100

2

Administrative delays

95A(2) Request for further information

40

10

Administrative delays

95A(3) Direction to publish

39

4

Administrative delays

96A(4) Public Environment Report guidelines to designated proponent

3

1

Administrative error

130(1B) Timing of decision on approval

71

8

More time needed for consultation with proponents or for consideration of complex legal and environmental issues, administrative error

145D(1) Minister must decide whether to extend the approval period

15

6

Administrative delays

156B(1) Decision whether to accept a varied proposal

39

4

Administrative delays

156E(1) Timing of person notified of variation decision

39

10

Administrative error

156E(2) Timing of State notified to accept a varied proposal

35

13

Administrative error

156F(5) Notice relating to change of person proposing to take action

8

1

Administrative delays

163(2) advice

3

1

Administrative delays

170A(c) Publication of information relating to assessments: controlled action decisions

138

2

Administrative delays

170A(d) Publication of information relating to assessments: decisions on assessment approach

100

2

Administrative delays

170A(e) Publication of information relating to assessments: preliminary documentation

80

34

Administrative delays

170A(f) Publication of information relating to assessments: guidelines

3

1

Administrative delays

170A(h) Publication of information relating to assessments: reports or statements

6

1

Administrative delays

170A(ia) Publication of information relating to assessments: recommendation reports

49

15

Administrative delays

324JA Minister to give nominations to Australian Heritage Council

1

1

No quorum on the Australian Heritage Council

324JI Time by which assessments to be provided to minister

1

1

No quorum on the Australian Heritage Council

Committees

Australian Heritage Council

The Australian Heritage Council is established under the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003. The council is the minister’s principal advisory body on heritage matters. It is responsible under the EPBC Act for:

  • assessing the heritage values of places nominated for possible inclusion in the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List
  • advising the minister on heritage issues.

In 2020–21 the council met 3 times. The tenures of the chair and 3 council members expired in March 2021. The minister appointed a new chair and 4 members on 23 June 2021.

Information on the council is on our Australian Heritage Council website.

Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development is established under section 505C of the EPBC Act. It provides independent scientific advice on the potential water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals. Information about the committee is on the committee’s website.

In 2020–21 the committee met 9 times. It provided 8 pieces of advice to government regulators.

Indigenous Advisory Committee

The Indigenous Advisory Committee is a statutory committee under section 505A of the EPBC Act. The committee provides advice to the minister on the operations of the Act, taking into account the significance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge of land management, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

In 2020–21 the committee held 3 meetings via videoconference and completed out-of-session work. It provided advice on our Science Strategy Action Plan and Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan, the independent review of the EPBC Act, national bushfire recovery programs, the State of the Environment Report, the National Environmental Science Program, Indigenous Protected Areas, the Australian Heritage Strategy, Australia’s Strategy for Nature, and the future department review.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee is established under section 502 of the EPBC Act. The committee:

  • advises the minister on amending and updating lists of threatened species, threatened ecological communities and key threatening processes that are listed under the Act
  • advises the minister on development or adoption of recovery, wildlife conservation and threat abatement plans
  • prepares conservation advice for approval by the minister or their delegate.

In November 2020 the minister increased the size of the committee from 10 to 12 members. This increased the capacity to respond to the impacts of the 2019–20 bushfires. During the year the committee held 6 formal meetings and several intersessional working groups.

The committee had 178 species, 14 ecological communities and one threatening process under assessment at 30 June 2021. The committee also published a one-year update to its 10‑point Bushfire Response Plan.

Further information is on the committee’s website.

Legislative amendments

In 2020–21 the following Bills to amend the EPBC Act were introduced into parliament:

  • The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020 was introduced in August 2020. This Bill will ensure bilateral agreements with the states and territories for single-touch environmental approvals are legally robust, effective and enduring.
  • The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standards and Assurance) Bill 2021 was introduced in February 2021. The Bill creates a framework for making national environmental standards and establishes an Environment Assurance Commissioner.

Independent review

Under section 522A of the EPBC Act, an independent review must be conducted every 10 years. The review is to consider how the Act is operating and the extent to which its objectives have been achieved.

The second review of the EPBC Act commenced in October 2019. The independent reviewer, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, was supported by an expert panel. The review included roundtable discussions, forums, more than 100 meetings, and more than 30,000 submissions.

The Independent review of the EPBC Act – Final Report was provided to the Minister for the Environment in October 2020. It was published to the review’s website in January 2021.

The report concluded that Australia’s natural environment and iconic places are in an overall state of decline and under increasing threat. It found the EPBC Act and its operation are dated and require fundamental and urgent reform.

The government has committed to a staged program of reforms in response to the review. In June 2021 the government released a pathway for reforming national environmental law with a proposed timeline. Together these describe the reforms underway, the next steps, and when the government will engage further with stakeholders on the full recommendations of the review.