The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the release of the final report into the interactions between the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation 1999 Act (the Act) and the agriculture sector, prepared by Dr Wendy Craik AM.
“The NFF has worked closely with Dr Craik and the review process since 2018, advocating for outcomes that will finally make the legislation more workable for farmers,” NFF President, Fiona Simson said.
“The NFF’s significant input into this review is reflected in both the recommendations and the body of the report. The report makes a number of practical recommendations to reduce the regulatory burden on agriculture without reducing environmental standards.
“The Act’s current one-size-fits-all approach does not recognise the inherently complex landscape scale interactions of farming and attempts to force environmental outcomes,” Ms Simson said.
The report raises legitimate concerns about the operation of the legislation, including a lack of clarity around the overarching objectives of regulation of agricultural activity; a lack of awareness of the Act; unclear, complicated, time-consuming and impractical advice that discourages referring agricultural decisions for decision; and, punitive approaches that dis-empower the real protection of environmental assets.
In the report, Dr Craik recommends a market-based approach to incentivise farmers to protect Matters of National Significance, a paradigm shift from the current command and control approach.
“The Act, as it stands, continues to fail to arrest the decline of biodiversity crucial to Australia’s food and fibre system. A market solution is a sensible mechanism to pursue,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF is working to develop market-based instruments through its natural capital policy.
The recommendations appear to be substantively consistent with the views put by the NFF in its submission and other engagements with the review.
“The NFF welcomes the Minister’s commitment to engage in the conversation and to commit to Dr Craik’s recommendations,” Ms Simson said.
“It is crucial that we find the right balance between environmental outcomes and the production of food and fibre, underpinned by evidence-based science and the sensible policy that we need to support a growing population.”
“The 10-year statutory review of the Act will be critical to the direction of environmental policy in Australia,” Ms Simson said.