The EPBC Act provides a framework to protect Australia’s matters of national environmental significance. It 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.
The following matters were determined by courts during 2015–16:
On 8 July 2015, Mr Jamie Gentles was convicted and fined $1500 in the New South Wales Magistrates Court at Port Macquarie for an offence against regulation 12.56(1) of the EPBC Regulations. On 27 April 2014, Mr Gentles was detected using a recreational fishing vessel with fishing equipment not stowed and secured in the Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve contrary to a prohibition on recreational fishing in the reserve.
On 14 April 2016, Mr Jack O’Connor and Mr Alexander Chala were convicted in the Northern Territory Local Court at Darwin for offences against the EPBC Regulations. Mr O’Connor was fined $3500 and Mr Chala $2500. In addition, items used in the commission of the offences, with a value of about $4500, were ordered to be forfeited to the Commonwealth. The offenders were detected in Kakadu National Park on 14 October 2015 engaged in illegal pig-hunting activities.
On 30 May 2016, Mr Myles McIntosh was convicted and fined $8000 in the Queensland District Court at Maroochydore for an offence against section 354A(5) of the EPBC Act. In February 2015, Mr McIntosh was the master of the Australian fishing vessel Santa Lucia, which was detected undertaking commercial long-line fishing in the sanctuary zone surrounding Elizabeth Reef within the Lord Howe Commonwealth Marine Reserve.
On 24 June 2016, the masters and 28 crew of two Vietnamese fishing vessels were convicted in the Northern Territory Local Court at Darwin for offences against section 354A(5) of the EPBC Act. The master of one vessel was sentenced to four months imprisonment, and the master of the other vessel to three months imprisonment. All crew members were sentenced to two months imprisonment. The masters and crew were also convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for periods ranging from two to seven months for offences against sections 100B and 101AA of the Fisheries Management Act 1999. All sentences were ordered to be served concurrently but suspended on the offenders entering into good behaviour bonds (three years for the masters and two years for the crew members). The two vessels were apprehended on 2 June 2016 undertaking illegal fishing within the Lihou Reef Sanctuary Zone of the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve.
On 29 July 2015, Mr Darryl Tan was convicted and fined $19,000 in the Downing Centre Local Court (Sydney) for offences against sections 303CD, 303EK and 303GN of the EPBC Act. Mr Tan had entered a plea of guilty to charges of importing and possessing CITES-listed species.
On 3 November 2015, the master of an Indonesian Type 2 Foreign Fishing Vessel was sentenced to a $900 fine for offences against section 229(C) of the EPBC Act. The vessel was apprehended on 10 October 2015 after being intercepted about 120 nautical miles off north Western Australia. The investigation revealed that the bait on the hooks was meat from a melon-headed whale (a cetacean).
On 5 April 2016, Mr Norman Wayne Gardner was convicted and fined $7500 in the Darwin Magistrates Court for aiding and abetting the commission of an offence against section 74AA of the EPBC Act. The offence, which was committed between July and December 2012, involved the clearing of land to construct a haul road connecting a mine site to Bing Bong Port in the Northern Territory before receiving Commonwealth approval.
As at 30 June 2016, three other matters were before the courts.
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.
Eleven statements of reasons were provided in response to 13 requests made in 2015–16 under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act1977 and the EPBC Act. The two additional statements of reasons were due and responded to in July 2016.
Reconsideration of a decision
Under section 78 of the EPBC Act, reconsideration of a referral decision under section 75 of the Act 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 2015–16, the Minister or his delegate made 196 referral decisions, of which three were reconsidered decisions.
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 (IESC) is a statutory committee established in October 2012 under the EPBC Act. The IESC provides independent scientific advice to the Australian, Queensland, New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian governments on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development, including any impacts of associated salt production and/or salinity. The IESC draws on its expertise in hydrology, hydrogeology, geology and ecology and on the best available science, such as that being delivered through the Australian Government’s Bioregional Assessment Program, to formulate its advice. This process is strengthening the science supporting environmental regulatory decision-making.
The IESC held eight meetings during 2015–16, preparing advice on the water-related impacts of eight large coal mines for the Australian, New South Wales and Queensland governments. Membership details are at Appendix B, Table 5.20. Further information is on the IESC website.
The Indigenous Advisory Committee, established under section 505A of the EPBC Act, provides advice to the Minister on the operations of the EPBC Act by incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s knowledge of land management and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The committee held one face-to-face meeting in Canberra in 2015–16 and three meetings by teleconference. Membership details are at Appendix B,
Table 5.21. Further information is on our website.
The Australian Heritage Council, established under the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003, is the Australian Government’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 Commonwealth Heritage List and for advising the Minister on heritage issues. The council met four times in 2015–16. Membership details are at Appendix B, Table 5.22.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee, established under section 502 of the EPBC Act, advises the Minister on amending and updating lists of threatened species, threatened ecological communities and key threatening processes, all listed under the EPBC Act. It advises on the development or adoption of recovery and threat abatement plans. The committee had four major meetings in 2015–16. Membership details are at Appendix B, Table 5.23.