Recognising Australia’s environment is deteriorating and under increasing threat, the Australian Government intends to replace the ineffective and outdated Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) with a new ‘Nature Positive (Environment) Bill’ (NPE Bill).
We need this improvement urgently, because the problems are serious.

One aspect of the proposed reform offers hope cumulative impacts will finally start to be properly considered. The Commonwealth intends to make ‘regional plans’ with state and territory governments to “pre-identify areas for protection, restoration and sustainable development.”

In step 1, “the environmental and other values” of an area will be mapped. In step 2, two regulatory zones will be identified within a proposed ‘regional plan area’, a ‘Development Zone’ and a ‘Conservation Zone’.

Draft plans must identify a person–likely to be a state or territory government minister–who has consented to be responsible for delivery of “regional restoration measures”. The draft plan must propose measures that will “more than compensate” for the impacts on protected matters of “priority development actions” in the Development Zone. The draft plan must propose conditions to be imposed on the delivery of the regional restoration measures.

After step 2, the Minister will decide whether to ‘make’ (approve) the regional plan. The plan will delineate (identify and map, at fine scale) the Development and Conservation zones within the regional plan area. The state or territory representative would assume responsibility for delivery of the regional restoration measures. 

The Minister must not approve the regional plan unless satisfied (among other things) that it “would result in, or be likely to result in, a net positive outcome for protected matters in the region”.

Matt Whitting, from Friends of Grasslands, has prepared a paper to support Member Groups and the environment community better understand the next steps on the reforms: “What next on regional planning and related national environmental law reforms.”