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

Inquiry into the rehabilitation of mining and resources projects as it relates to Commonwealth responsibilities – EDOs of Australia submission

April 2017 - Download PDF

In our submission, we comment on the Australian Government’s responsibilities within the regulatory framework that supports rehabilitation of mining and resources projects. We address directly the issues identified in the inquiry’s terms of reference:

  • the cost of outstanding rehabilitation obligations of currently operating projects;
  • the adequacy of existing regulatory, policy and institutional arrangements to ensure adequate and timely rehabilitation;
  • the adequacy and transparency of financial mechanisms, including assurances, bonds and funds, to ensure that mining and resources projects are rehabilitated without placing a burden on public finances;
  • the effectiveness of current Australian rehabilitation practices in safeguarding human health and repairing and avoiding environmental damage;
  • the effectiveness of existing abandoned mines programs, with regard to repairing environmental damage and safeguarding human health;
  • whether any mining or resources companies have engaged in conduct designed to avoid fulfilling their rehabilitation obligations;
  • international examples of effective rehabilitation policy and practice; and
  • proposals for reform of rehabilitation of mining and resources projects.

Link to this submission's page.

Draft State Environmental Planning Policy (Education Establishments and Child Care Facilities) 2017 – EDO NSW submission

April 2017 – Download PDF

The NSW Government has proposed a new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to assess and approve childcare and education facilities (schools, universities, TAFE). The new Education SEPP would remove existing development controls from the Infrastructure SEPP.

Our submission addresses issues relating to:

  • Education facilities generally (including concerns about exempt tree-clearing up to 2 hectares and ‘minimal environmental impact’ requirements)
  • Childcare centres
  • Schools (Design Quality Principles and need for independent oversight of Part 5 assessments)
  • Universities
  • TAFE centres.

We have made a separate submission on the 10-year review of the Infrastructure SEPP.

Link to this submission's page.

State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) Amendment (Review) 2016 – EDO NSW submission

April 2017 – Download PDF

This submission comments on the review of the SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007 – a powerful planning instrument that sets out how local infrastructure projects, state services and utilities are approved, often with limited (if any) public consultation.

The draft SEPP significantly expands the activities that can use fast-track ‘exempt’ and ‘complying’ approvals, or be ‘self-assessed’ and approved by a state agency or local council proposing the development (‘Part 5’ assessment).

In our submission we:

  • raise key issues of transparency, assessment and oversight;
  • review the key amendments proposed by the Government; and
  • comment on positive changes, concerning changes and o proposals requiring further detail.

We argue that any expansion of faster infrastructure approvals calls for:

  • improved transparency, notification and consultation based on the scale of change;
  • harm minimisation guidelines, to ensure the SEPP is properly applied;
  • exemplary environmental compliance within agencies that rely on ‘Part 5’ assessment; and
  • strong and properly resourced oversight and enforcement by regulators, including the Department of Planning and Environment.

We have made a separate submission on the proposed new SEPP for education and childcare facilities.

Link to this submission's page.

Surface Water Status and Issues Papers for the Barwon-Darling and Namoi catchments – EDO NSW submissions

March 2017

EDO NSW has commented on two of the eight Status and Issues Papers recently put on exhibition:

  • Barwon-Darling Surface Water – Status and Issues Paper – Download PDF

  • Namoi Water Resource Plan Surface Water – Status and Issues Paper – Download PDF

In these two brief submissions, we outline our key concerns about the future allocation of water under ‘water resource plans’ for the Barwon-Darling and Namoi Catchments. These water resource plans, which must be finalised by mid-2019, must comply with the requirements of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

There will be an opportunity to comment on full draft water resource plans when they are put on exhibition in 2018. EDO NSW will analyse these when they are made publicly available as part of our ongoing water law work.

Link to this submission's page.

NSW Marine Estate Threat and Risk Assessment (TARA) Draft Report – EDO NSW submission

31 March 2017 – Download PDF

The draft report identifies threats to the marine and estuary areas of NSW, plus the socio-economic benefits received from these critical environmental resources. 

Overall we welcome the draft report and its associated documents. However, we identify a number of flaws in the assessment that we argue may lead to poor prioritisation of management of the NSW marine estate, especially over the long-term. Specific issues we address in our submission are:

  1. Objectives for the environmental TARA
  2. Marine Estate Expert Knowledge Panel (MEEKP) Evaluation Process
  3. TARA risk matrices
  4. Method for calculating prioritisation scores

Note: The deadline for public submissions on this report has been extended to Tuesday 18 April 2017. Find out how to make a submission.

Link to this submission's page.