The major national environmental law reforms announced today by Federal Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek bring much needed hope to arresting Australia’s alarming environmental decline, but the detailed policy and implementation must be strong, says Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

The Minister today announced the Federal Government’s response to the Samuel’s Review, an independent review undertaken during the Morrison Government with view to reforming the  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Glenn Walker, Head of Advocacy and Strategy at Greenpeace Australia Pacific said that the reforms outlined are a very welcome and long-overdue first step to better protecting Australia’s extraordinary wildlife, forests and natural environment.

“Australia’s natural environment is in steep and alarming decline. When even iconic wildlife like the koala are being pushed towards extinction you know it’s time to raise the alarm bells. Australia is a world leader in wildlife extinction, deforestation and approving huge climate-wrecking coal and gas projects. This has to stop.”

“The reforms announced today present a major opportunity to set Australia on a path to stronger environmental protection and should bring hope to all Australians. We congratulate the Minister for showing leadership on this critical issue.

“But the devil will very much be in the details. The proposed National Environmental Standards and regional plans must set in stone firm boundaries that destructive industries must not cross, including no-go zones for bulldozing high conservation forest and habitat for threatened species.

“There are also major missing pieces of the reforms that must be incorporated, including an assessment trigger for major climate-polluting projects and the ability of communities to challenge approvals of large projects in the courts. We’re also concerned by the heavy reliance on so-called offsets in the proposed new approvals system.

“The ultimate tests will be whether this brings back our amazing wildlife and plants from the brink of extinction, whether it halts Australia’s globally-significant rates of deforestation and whether massive climate-polluting projects like Woodside’s offshore gas plans continue to get the green light.

“We encourage the Minister to bear these tests in mind with every decision on these reforms as the details are worked through. This Government will either be forever celebrated for their strong leadership to protect Australia’s extraordinary environment or will be remembered harshly for failing a once-off opportunity to save our wildlife and natural wonders from oblivion.”