Law Reform

We actively engage in environmental policy and law reform in NSW and Australia

View our recent submissions

Our policy and law reform work reflects our status as an independent, specialist legal centre. We put forward policy proposals suggesting ways that the law can be improved in NSW and Australia.

Our policy proposals may be in the form of:

  • submissions to Governments or parliamentary inquiries
  • proactive reports and consultancy projects
  • policy advice to Governments as a member of expert panels or stakeholder reference groups.

For national environmental matters, we work with our colleagues in EDOs of Australia and with national groups, to improve the law and protect the environment.

Review our submissions by topic using the right hand menu or use the search feature below to find a document of interest.

You can see current opportunities for law reform at Have Your Say.

Major review of biodiversity laws by NSW Government

The NSW Government has released a new biodiversity conservation law and policy package that's a serious retrograde step as it involves removing many of NSW’s long-held environmental protections. Read more on our feature page.

Recent Submissions

Draft Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy and proposed Mining SEPP amendments - EDO NSW submission

February 2018 - Download submission.

This submission provides specific comment on the Draft Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy, but also notes our overarching concern is that where the impacts of a mine actually make a property unliveable, then land acquisition and mitigation actions are not really ‘voluntary’ and there is a fundamental problem in saying that the proposed agreements and actions are an acceptable way to deal with impacts. As it is therefore akin to a compulsory acquisition process by private companies, at the very least landholders should be entitled to heads of compensation that are the same as the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 and express reference should be made to that Act in relevant instruments and policies. Affected landholders should also be entitled to similar valuation and dispute resolution mechanisms, including rights of appeal to an independent arbiter.

Draft Large Scale Solar Energy Guidelines - EDO NSW submission

February 2018 - Download PDF.

This submission makes general comments on how the planning system can increasingly contribute to strategic climate change goals, and specific comments on the Draft Large Scale Solar Guideline.

Link to this submission's page.

EDO NSW comment on the Explanation of Intended Effect for a new State Environmental Planning Policy (Environment) (proposed SEPP). 

February 2018 - Download submission.

SEPPs are powerful legal instruments given effect under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (Planning Act). They affect how land is developed and how natural resources are used, managed and conserved across NSW.

The Department of Planning and Environment’s proposal would revise and consolidate seven existing SEPPs into one Environment SEPP. EDO NSW can only support SEPP consolidation where there is no reduction of environmental protection, transparency, enforceability or accountability. 

This submission briefly identifies important issues that require clarification. It addresses:
- The reform context
- Development in environmentally sensitive areas
- Catchments
- Urban bushland
- Waterways.

Inquiry into water use by the extractive industry - EDOs of Australia submission

December 2017 - Download PDF

Communities, scientists and conservationists across Australia continue to express concern about the impacts of extractive industry on water and the environment. This concern is widespread largely due to extent of extractive industries across nearly all states and territories of Australia and the relatively weak regulation of this industry.

In addition to the high level of community concern about environmental impacts, there is also a general perception that the regulatory frameworks that govern water use by the extractive industry across Australia jurisdictions are failing to protect the interests of other water users, now and in the future; and failing to fairly and adequately economically value the impacts of the extractive industry on water. These issues are exacerbated by legislation that confers broad discretion on decision-makers to determine how environmental and social impacts will be assessed, and whether or not high-impact extractive projects should be approved.

EDOA has written extensively on risks to ecologically sustainable water management in Australia. In this submission we respond to each of the Terms of Reference (ToR) namely:

A. The social, economic and environmental impacts of extractive projects’ take and use of water

B. Existing safeguards in place to prevent the damage, contamination or draining of Australia’s aquifers and water systems

C. Any gaps in the regulatory framework which may lead to adverse social, economic or environmental outcomes, as a result of the take and use of water by extractive projects;

D. Any difference in the regulatory regime surrounding the extractive industry’s water use, and that of other industries;

E. The effectiveness of the ‘water trigger’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 , and the value in expanding the ‘trigger’ to include other projects, such as shale and tight gas.

Link to this page

EDO NSW submission on the Explanation of Intended Effect for a new State Environmental Planning Policy on Primary Production and Rural Development (proposed SEPP)

January 2018 - Download this submission

The Department of Planning and Environment’s proposal would revise and consolidate five rural and agricultural SEPPs into one Primary Production and Rural Development SEPP. 

EDO NSW sees the in-principle benefits in ensuring planning controls are up-to-date, accessible and effective. In doing so it is also important that environmental protections and community engagement are maintained and improved, consistent with the aims of planning and environmental legislation.

Part 1 of this submission considers some important issues upfront that are not dealt with, or fully dealt with, in the Explanation of Intended Effect:
- two guiding principles – on maintaining environmental protections and community engagement, and transparency in SEPP reviews and outcomes;
- how the reforms will affect land use on Environmental zones (E-zones); and
- the need for closer regulation and best practice guidance for intensive plant agriculture (such as berry farming).

Part 2 comments on the proposed new Primary Production and Rural Development SEPP.

Part 3 comments on proposed amendments to other planning instruments and regulations and draft guidelines for intensive livestock agriculture.

Link to this page.