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

NSW Government Climate Change Fund – Draft Strategic Plan – EDO NSW submission

December 2016 – Download PDF

The NSW Government invited EDO NSW to comment on the Draft Strategic Plan. Our submission makes a number of recommendations relating to strategic planning, environmental impact assessment, development decisions, and compliance and enforcement. We also attached our July 2016 report, Planning for Climate Change: How the NSW planning system can better tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

Proposed Medium Density Housing Code – Statement of Intended Effect and Draft Medium Density Design Guide - EDO NSW submission

December 2016 - Download PDF

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is proposing to make more types of medium density housing complying development. (A complying development does not require Council development assessment and approval if it complies with code standards and can be certified by a private certifier).

Our submission identifies seven key concerns with expanding the use of complying development.

Gwydir Water Resource Plan Surface Water Issues Paper – EDO NSW submission

December 2016 - Download PDF

Water resource plans (WRPs) are being developed by each Basin state for the purposes of fulfilling the requirements of the Basin Plan. WRPs will set out how water will be shared between different users, including the environment, in a given ‘water resource area’ (WRA). As such, they will set out how much water will be available for rivers, aquifers, wetlands and other water-dependent ecosystems. Draft WRPs are being preceded by Issues Papers for each WRA. The first of these Issues Papers concerns surface water in the Gwydir catchment.

Our submission highlights the importance of maintaining rules that protect environmental water and the Ramsar listed Gwydir wetlands, and ensuring that water sharing complies with the requirements of the Basin Plan and Water Act 2007 (Cth).

Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement - EDOs of Australia submission

October 2016 - Download PDF

The Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has a chapter on the environment (chapter 20).

Our submission makes recommendations on national environmental laws can be improved in response to the proposals outlined in chapter 20. It also makes recommendations on improving access to justice, and notes the impacts that Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions of the Agreement could have on environmental law and policy reform in Australia.


EDO NSW Submission on the Environmental Impact Assessment Improvement Project – Environmental impact assessment for major projects

November 2016 – Download PDF

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment invited EDO NSW to make preliminary comments on stage 1 of its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Improvement Project and high-level discussion paper.

Our comments build on previous submissions on the regulation of major project impacts. After commenting on the initial scope of the Project and eight proposed improvements, we recommend the Project address four issues in more detail: cumulative impacts; climate change; negative effects that ‘streamlining’ can have on public trust; and equitable appeal rights.

We also seek further clarity from the Department on whether the Project will involve legislative reform, and how it intersects with proposed reforms to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.