Proposed amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950

The Biodiversity Legislation (Priority Reforms) Bill 2014 (Bill) has recently been introduced into the Legislative Council by the Hon Lynn MacLaren.

The bill is interesting in that it proposes a number of changes to both the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (WA) and the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA).

In summary, the Bill seeks to, among other things:

  • Introduce a formal mechanism for the listing and modification of listed threatened species (as historically the identification and listing of threatened species has occurred without legislative support).
  • Provide the Minister for Environment with the power to notify owners or occupiers about the presence of listed ecological communities on their land, and to provide for the lodgement of notification documents with Landgate.
  • Require an owner or occupier notified of the presence of a listed ecological community on their land to take reasonable steps to protect the listed ecological community from the impacts of visitors to that land.
  • Increase the existing penalty provisions by a factor of 11, to bring them generally inline with the penalty provisions under the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).
  • Create an avenue for appeals to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) for some native vegetation clearing proposals.
  • Create an avenue for owners and occupies of land to claim compensation for injurious affection in situations where:
    • an owner or occupier applies for permission to modify a listed ecological community; and
    • the authorisation is refused, or given on conditions unacceptable to the owner/occupier.

Whilst it remains to be seen if the proposed Bill will receive serious consideration, there are a number of amendments that are worth looking at, including the provisions which seek to introduce formal mechanisms for the listing (and modification of listing) of threatened species and the introduction of an appeal right for clearing proposals to the SAT.  These changes have the potential to bring more certainty and transparency to a system that has historically caused significant problems for landowners and developers due to, among other things, the limited avenues of appeal.

However, there are aspects of the proposed Bill that will not be met with similar enthusiasm, including the proposal to increase the environmental penalty provisions and the introduction of compensation for injurious affection when a piece of land cannot be developed due to the presence of a threatened ecological community.  While it would be extremely beneficial for landowners to be able to be compensated for such occurrences, it is hard to envisage the current Government passing legislation which would open them up to compensation claims.

Please contact us if you have any queries in relation to this Bill, or any other planning, environment or land compensation matters.  Lavan Legal will monitor the progress of this Bill, and will update you in the event it is progressed further.

Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.