I support the NT Government’s commitment to introducing modern and effective environmental laws for the Northern Territory and welcome the opportunity to comment on the draft laws.
Territorians know how incredible our coasts and seas are, and how important they are to our enviable way of life, our culture and our livelihoods. Yet, our Top End coasts and seas have seen a legacy of destructive impacts from industrial activities like the toxic McArthur River mine, ongoing impacts to Darwin Harbour and the inappropriate Port Melville development.
The Environment Protection Bill 2019 represents an important step forward for environmental protection in the Territory. Environmental assessment laws haven’t changed in any significant way since they were introduced in the early 1980s – clearly our values, environmental issues and challenges have changed since then. However, I am concerned about industry efforts to prevent, delay or weaken the new legislation, and I urge you to work to deliver fair and effective environmental protection laws.
The draft law provides important new tools for regulators to hold operators such as mining companies accountable when they do the wrong thing in breaching their environmental commitments. It also represents a welcome commitment to increased community participation, independence, transparency and accountability in environmental decision-making.
I support aspects of the proposed legislation, such as:
- Important guiding objects and principles, including a requirement to consider and apply the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
- Improved opportunities for public participation and access to information.
- Strong enforcement and compliance provisions, including civil remedies and increased powers for the EPA.
There are also opportunities to improve the draft laws, which include:
- Ensuring that climate change is a mandatory factor for decision makers to consider when assessing proposals under the Act.
- Ensuring that the Minister can only approve a project if there has been adequate engagement with impacted communities.
- A commitment from government to properly fund monitoring, compliance and enforcement.