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.

Changes to NSW planning law 2017

The NSW Government is proposing to amend our State planning laws – updating the Act’s objects and structure, clearer public participation requirements and timeframes, reforms to state and local decision-making panels, speeding up decisions on large and small development, and putting another nail in the coffin of the former ‘Part 3A’ major projects pathway. The community has until Friday 31 March 2017 to comment.

Read more »

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

Reducing emissions from the transport sector – EDOs of Australia submission

March 2017 - Download PDF

This is a submission to the Commonwealth Government on three proposals to improve harmful emissions from the transport sector: Better Fuel for Cleaner Air; Improving light vehicle efficiency; and Improving noxious emissions standards for light and heavy vehicles. 

We continue to support the adoption of stringent vehicle emissions and fuel quality standards. The Australian community deserves the environmental, public health and cost-of-living benefits of these improved standards. 

Our key recommendations are:

  • Fuel quality standards: EDOs of Australia supports  option D in the Government’s Discussion Paper.
  • Light vehicle efficiency (greenhouse gas): The target with the greatest emissions and fuel savings for vehicle owners (target A) should be chosen .  Earlier commencement and more stringent standards should also be considered.
  • Heavy vehicle efficiency standards: should also be considered (they are not addressed in the government’s proposals).
  • Noxious emissions standards: European standards should be adopted (option 6) to achieve the best health and environmental benefits.  
  • Other federal, state and local government measures are needed to reduce transport sector’s significant and growing greenhouse emissions.
  • The Fuel Tax Credit Scheme for diesel should also be independently reviewed on environmental, public health and budgetary grounds.
  • Future reviews to ensure continuous improvement are needed in legislation and policy, beginning well before 2025.

Link to this submission.

Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 – EDO NSW submission

March 2017 – Download PDF

In this detailed 28 page submission, we comment on key issues in the Bill and identify missed opportunities that should be addressed before the Bill is introduced to Parliament. Our analysis is structured around the Government’s 10 themes for reform.

See our other resources on these important reforms:

Link to this submission.

Draft Social Impact Assessment Guidelines – EDO NSW submission

March 2017 – Download PDF

We strongly support the objectives of the Draft Social Impact Assessment Guidelines released by the NSW Government, particularly the commitment to assessing cumulative impacts under the Guidelines. In this submission, we make a number of recommendations to strengthen the Guidelines further, including:

  • A process should be detailed for ensuring the independence of social impact assessments, and the community should be involved in decisions about who gets to undertake an assessment.
  • Further detail should be included on reviews of ongoing social impacts and how ‘unforseen impacts’ should be addressed.
  • Clear timeframes should be set for expanding the application of the Draft Guidelines to other types of State Significant Developments.

Link to this submission.

Developing a NSW Koala Strategy

March 2017 – Download PDF

This submission responds to the Government’s initial call for input on a Koala Strategy for NSW. 

We strongly support a whole-of-government approach to the protection of koalas. In our submission, we identify laws and policies that need to be improved to secure the future of koalas, and provide examples where planning laws and biodiversity protections are failing. 

We show that that the new biodiversity and land clearing laws due to commence in 2017 do not address – and may even exacerbate – the problems of declining koala populations. We reiterate several important issues that have yet to be addressed in the review of the State Environmental Planning Policy for Koala Habitat Protection (SEPP 44), such as cumulative impacts and climate change readiness. 

Finally, we argue that, given the very significant decline of several key NSW koala populations, the NSW Scientific Committee should review the koala’s threat status in NSW, and clarify the relationship with federal listings and recovery plans.

See also our January 2017 Submissions on the SEPP Review (State Environmental Planning Policy 44 – Koala Habitat Protection).

Link to this submission.

Inquiry into shark mitigation and deterrent measures – EDOs of Australia submission

March 2017 – Download PDF

In this submission, we explore the legal exemptions that have allowed shark netting and shark culling to operate in NSW, Queensland and WA, without full environmental impact assessment, and strongly recommend that all existing shark cull measures, and any new proposals, should be subject to full and rigorous assessment.

It is inappropriate for programs with questionable efficacy, that are known to impact on threatened and protected species, to be allowed to continue to operate and expand without comprehensive environmental assessment, including full consideration of alternative measures.

Given the lack of knowledge about the extent to which many of these species can withstand the loss arising from shark culls, the ongoing use of exemptions to allow shark culls is inappropriate.

For more, see NSW shark netting trials: an exception that should not become a rule, EDO NSW blog, 10 February 2017.

Link to this submission.