Law Reform - EDO NSW

Law reform

We actively engage in environmental policy and law reform.

This work reflects our status as an independent, specialist legal centre. We put forward policy proposals suggesting ways the law can be improved in NSW and Australia. Our 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.

View our recent submissions.

For national environmental matters, we work with 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.

Current opportunities for comment on law reform can be seen at Have Your Say.

Recent Submissions

Independent review of NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy Implementation - EDO NSW submission

May 2019 - download the PDF

Our key concerns are: the NSW government’s failure to consider the impacts of climate change in setting rules for floodplain harvesting; the inadequacy of the assessment of the downstream environment impacts of floodplain harvesting; and the need for water shepherding rules to protect releases of environmental water from consumptive take for irrigation. We also seek greater transparency on the compliance process to address unlawful floodplain harvesting structures.

Natural Resource Commission (NRC) review of the Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012 - EDO NSW submission

March 2019 - Download PDF

We welcome the decision to bring this review forward, as a valuable input into the preparation of a new water sharing plan, which will also function as a water resource plan under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 and Basin Plan 2012. Given the number of issues which have come to light regarding water management in the Murray-Darling and, more particularly in the Barwon-Darling system, it is timely to have a thorough and independent evaluation to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not compounded in the new plan.

A significant concern for us is that the fundamental approach of the Act has been misplaced and replaced with an attempt to simultaneously balance the environmental, economic and social outcomes of the Act – an exercise which necessarily involves trading off the ecological health of the system for shorter term economic outcomes. This is not what the Act requires, or indeed allows.

Link to this page


Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications – inquiry into the Water Amendment (Purchase Limit Repeal) Bill 2019 - EDOA submission

This Private member’s bill proposes to remove the current limit on buy-backs of water. While EDOA supports this Bill as a first step, that step must be viewed in the context of the overall implementation of the Water Act 2007 and Basin Plan 2012 and the recent independent reviews conducted by the Productivity Commission and the South Australian Royal Commission.

Read our submission and recommendations >> 


Proposed amendments to NSW Bilateral Agreement in relation to Environmental Assessment - EDO NSW submission

21 February 2019: Download this PDF

EDO NSW supports efficient and effective environmental regulation, with comprehensive guidance and upfront certainty about the rules and processes for both development proponents and communities. However, achieving efficiencies through accreditation cannot be at the expense of maintaining environmental standards. Accreditation is much more than an administrative exercise.

The consultation materials state that this amending exercise is “minor” and relates to updating the names and relevant provisions of the NSW legislation that is accredited since reforms have occurred at the state level.

Commonwealth accreditation of the new NSW biodiversity laws is not simply a minor administrative exercise. While the “intent” of the overall agreement remains the same, to streamline assessment requirements, the substantive detail of what laws and standards are being accredited is substantially different.

EDO NSW has published significant expert analysis of the new NSW laws and documented the weakening of standards for environmental protection. In our expert view, it is legally questionable to pursue accreditation in the absence of significant amendment to the NSW laws to meet national standards.

Our primary recommendation is that the Amending Agreement must not be signed until relevant amendments to NSW offset rules and regulations have been made and have commenced.

This submission identifies both our overarching concerns with the proposed Commonwealth endorsement of new NSW biodiversity laws and also makes specific comments on proposed amendments.

Link to this page >>

Draft Floodplain harvesting monitoring and auditing strategy - EDO NSW submission

EDO NSW have many years experience engaging with water law and policy processes at both State and Commonwealth levels. We also have extensive experience advising a broad range of clients, including irrigators, community groups and peak conservation organisations, on NSW Water Management Act 2000, as well as the Water Act 2007 (Cth), Basin Plan and associated policies.

As we have consistently argued for improved metering and measurement of all extractions, greater transparency with respect to usage and account data and greater protection of environmental and low flows, we are pleased to see the issue of how to monitor and audit floodplain harvesting being addressed. 

As previously recommended we support developing a clear, evidence-based monitoring framework as a priority which will in turn assist with baseline data, compliance and enforcement.

This submission addresses:

  • Introduction: Key issues for effective floodplain harvesting regulation
  • Preconditions and baseline data
  • Determining a Monitoring approach
  • Monitoring floodplain take
  • Data recording and reporting
  • Verification, auditing, investigation and enforcement
  • Complementary issus: Environmental flows; Trading

15 February 2019: Download the submission >>

Link to this page >>