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

Productivity Commission's Regulation of Agriculture: Draft Report - EDOs of Australia submission

August 2016 – Download PDF

In our submission, we respond to specific findings and recommendations in the Draft Report regarding native vegetation clearing. We also identify a gap in relation to environmental data, ecosystem services and environmental accounts, and submit that the Draft Report does not sufficiently consider future challenges that agricultural regulation must address, adapt and respond to regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This submission follows on from our February 2015 submission on the Productivity Commission’s Issues Paper on the Regulation of Agriculture.

NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Crown Land 2016 - EDO NSW submission

July 2016 – Download PDF

We support the Government’s aims to clarify and harmonise the complex laws on managing Crown lands to ensure the environmental and cultural values of Crown lands are recognised and protected.

In our submission, we reiterate recommendations made in previous submissions: our 10 principles for Crown lands management from our 2014 submission on Crown lands; and our Travelling Stock Reserves submission (December 2015).

We also make recommendations about the best process for changing the laws. We recommend public consultation on an exposure draft Crown Lands Bill prior to introduction to Parliament. This would improve the legislation and strengthen community confidence in the process and outcomes of any reforms. 

Draft Amendment to Protection of the Environment Operations Regulation (Scheduled Activities) 2016 - rail freight - EDO NSW submission

June 2016 – Download PDF

We support the intent to better regulate railway activities and assign responsibility for managing environmental and health impacts. However we have a number of concerns with the Amendment Regulation and provide recommendations for improvement, including:

  • Any new licences issued as a result of the Amendment Regulation must specify clear standards and timeframes for achieving emissions reduction targets.
  • Load-based fees should be applied for railway activities that emit pollutants including fine particulates and nitrogen oxides, to encourage continuous improvement.
  • The Amendment Regulation should be clarified to address issues which require “shared responsibility for environmental performance” (such as wheel squeal).
  • The minimum 30km track-length should be removed before a pollution licence is required for trains and railway infrastructure, to ensure all coal trains are properly regulated.

NSW Biodiversity Law Reform Package 2016 - EDO NSW submissions

June 2016

Submission on the draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 - Download PDF

Submission on the draft Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016 - Download PDF

Technical submission on the Biodiversity Assessment Method and Mapping Method 2016 - Download PDF

Technical submission on the draft Offsets Payment Calculator - Download PDF

Find out more about the reform package, including EDO NSW blogs and workshop slides.

EDO NSW has been making recommendations for strong biodiversity, native vegetation and land management laws since 1995. We were heavily involved in the development of the current Native Vegetation Act between 2002 and 2005. 

We met with the Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel during their deliberations and produced A Legal Assessment of NSW Biodiversity Legislation to assist the panel. We engaged with representatives of the Office of Environment & Heritage, Department of Primary Industries and Department of Planning during targeted stakeholder consultations prior to the public exhibition process. We raised a number of key concerns and made recommendations in these meetings based on our extensive expertise in NSW environmental law.

Unfortunately none of these fundamental concerns or recommendations were addressed in the package developed for public consultation. 

These submissions detail our conclusion that the proposed laws are a retrograde step for NSW biodiversity and land management. While the proposed investment private land conservation is welcome, once this money runs out, we will be left with weak laws that offer no real protection for our unique threatened species and ecological communities and will facilitate ongoing decline in biodiversity. Consequently, we cannot support the proposed package.

Through a series of workshops, seminars and forums, we have spoken to local communities, Landcare members, Local Land Services officers, local councils, ecological consultants, private land conservation agreement holders, Aboriginal people, conservationists, wildlife carers, and private individuals through our advice line. Areas covered include: Hunter, Greater Sydney, North Coast, Northern Tablelands, South East and Central West. We discussed concerns with over 600 people. With the exception of representatives of the NSW Farmers Association, no-one we spoke to told us the proposed laws were an improvement on current laws, and almost all participants were seriously concerned at the implications of the new regime for biodiversity.

Review of Complying Development for Inland NSW - EDO NSW submission

May 2016 – Download PDF

The NSW Government’s Review of Complying Development for Inland NSW proposes to amend State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development) 2008 to amend and expand code-based assessment.

We have identified a number of critical issues that need to be addressed. These issues are set out in our submission and reiterated in our Submission on Options for Low Rise Medium Density Housing as Complying Development (February 2016).

We submit that appropriate governance arrangements need to be in place before the Policy is expanded, and raise concerns that the proposed amendments will result in unforeseen cumulative impacts, including on sensitive environmental areas.

We raise further concerns that consultation for the Policy is occurring before a draft exposure Bill proposing to amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act has been placed on public exhibition, as it is difficult to properly assess how these reform processes will interact and how they will affect the community and environment.