Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 449..
MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.25): The opposition will be supporting this bill. The bill amends the Environment Protection Act of 1997—specifically, section 57. Within the act currently there are three classifications of environmental authorisations that allow those granted such an authorisation to conduct activities that have the potential to cause harm to our environment.
I note the minister's comments regarding the many different aspects of community life that interact or have the potential to interact with or have an effect on our local environment. Whether it is festivals, concerts and events or greenfield development, the act provides the tools for the Environment Protection Authority to define the conditions under which the activity will be undertaken.
To date, the authorisations have provided for an annual review for those granted for more than one year. The amendment substantially changes this aspect of the act, allowing for the EPA to review at varying intervals—longer than one year but not exceeding five years. The new system will be regulated by risk assessment on a case-by-case basis. The Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2010 will, through the removal of the previously quite rigid compliance and audit system, allow for both government and industry to reduce costs without putting the environment at risk. The opposition are satisfied this amendment will not adversely affect the environment and will assist with costs and compliance. On that basis, we will support the bill.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.26): The Greens will be supporting the Environment Protection Amendment Bill today as we believe that it presents the opportunity to improve the management of resources at the EPA, which will, in turn, free up the organisation to undertake more work on the ground, undertaking more inspections and compliance work where they are most needed.
The bill seeks to change the default period by which standard environmental authorisations granted by the EPA are reviewed. Currently the legislation mandates that the EPA must review every 12 months all standard environment authorisations that are granted for an unlimited period. This bill seeks to change that mandated review period to five years. It does not seek to change the review conditions for other types of authorisations under the legislation, such as special environmental authorisations, which will still need to be reviewed every 12 months.
The Environment Protection Authority has indicated that it undertakes desktop reviews of around 255 standard environmental authorisations each year. The majority of these authorisations are for the use of AgVet chemicals, and the circumstances of their use does not change much from year to year. This bill does in some ways place a higher level of trust on the EPA to ensure that reviews are followed up in specific circumstances rather than just routinely each year.
Another way to pursue these changes would have been to retain the existing review periods but provide the EPA with the discretion to extend the review period up to five years for standard environmental authorisations where the EPA has determined that a longer review period is appropriate. This could be done following a risk assessment based on the risk posed by the authorised activities and the potential to cause