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 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

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 serious 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 thought 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.

Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion Assessment Suggested Management Initiatives Discussion Paper - EDO NSW submission

May 2016 – Download PDF

Our submission addresses the Threat and Risk Assessment (TARA) process, the relationship with current legislative processes, and each of the eight suggested management initiatives outlined in the discussion paper.

We argue that the highest priority management initiative for Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion should be the implementation of a large-scale, multi-use marine park that provides comprehensive, adequate and representative protection of the marine estate. Such a marine park would address a large number of high and moderate risks and threats, and is the suggested management initiative that is most consistent with the object of the Marine Estate Management Act 2014.

National Standard for Environmental Risk Management of Industrial Chemicals - EDOs of Australia submission

May 2016 – Download PDF

EDOs of Australia strongly supports the objective of these reforms to “achieve better protection of the environment through improved management of the environmental risks posed by industrial chemicals”. EDOA also supports objectives to improve transparency, consistency and efficiency in chemical risk management.

Our submission makes recommendations across three key areas of risk management in industrial chemicals: hazard characterisation; the outcomes based approach; and community engagement.

It’s important to note that this Discussion Paper is part of a broader effort to reform Australia’s regulation and management of potentially hazardous industrial chemicals. We recently made a submission to Consultation Paper 2 – Implementing reforms to the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).

Issues Paper on Consultation and Transparency Requirements for Offshore Petroleum Activities in Commonwealth Waters - EDOs of Australia submission

April 2016 - Download PDF

In our submission we make a range of recommendations on how offshore petroleum regulation can be strengthened to meet the standards required under Australian environmental law, including:

  • Offshore petroleum project proposals and Environment Plans should be required to identify matters of national environmental significance that may be affected by the project.
  • Environment Plans should be required to include information about the proponent’s environmental history, including details of any legal proceedings taken against the proponent.
  • Environment Plans should be required to be placed on public exhibition for a minimum of 30 working days.
  • Standing provisions that reflect those in the EPBC Act should be included in the legislation. This would allow conservation groups and individual ‘third parties’ to seek judicial review of a decision to approve an Environment Plan that does not comply with the Regulations.