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

EDOs of Australia (EDOA) has made a submission to the House of Representatives Inquiry into the management and use of Commonwealth environmental water.

21 May 2018 - Download this submission.

This submission addresses the Inquiry's four terms of reference and reiterates recommendations for improved management of environmental water.

We have considerable concerns regarding the current management of environmental water. A key rationale of the Basin Plan was to restore the Murray-Darling Basin to health. Recovering water for the environment is absolutely essential as a healthy system underpins healthy regional communities and economies. Despite this imperative, the benefits of the water recovered for the environment to date have been undermined by insufficient protection of environmental flows. This relates to our overarching concern regarding the failure on the part of the Commonwealth and certain Basin States to actively ensure we have a scientifically rigorous, risk-based approach to the management of the MDB’s variable and scarce water resources, underpinned by strong laws.

In addition to the non-compliance and lacklustre enforcement of unlawful extractions (both of which have recently received considerable media coverage), we are concerned about the current lawful mismanagement of Basin water resources, which is both serious and in our view systemic.

EDOs of Australia (EDOA) has made a submission to the Murray Darling Basin Plan: Five Year Assessment.

17 April 2018 - Download the submission


The Darling River at Wilcannia. Photo: Ruby Davies

Based on our experience, we have considerable concerns regarding the current management of water in the Basin and concerns regarding whether the Basin Plan will be implemented in full and on time. Our overarching concern relates to the failure on the part of the Commonwealth and certain Basin States to actively ensure we have a scientifically rigorous, risk-based approach to the management of the MDB’s variable and scarce water resources, underpinned by strong laws. In addition to identifying progress of the many elements of Basin Plan implementation against set timeframes, a key issue for this review should be to determine whether desired outcomes are actually going to be delivered.


NSW Water Reform Action Plan - EDO NSW submission

16 April 2018 - Download


This submission is divided into five parts:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Summary of recommendations
Part 3: Water Management Amendment Bill 2018
Part 4: Environmental water consultation paper
Part 5: Floodplain harvesting consultation paper

Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 - EDO NSW submission

13 April 2018 - Download

During the consultation period for this Bill, EDO NSW has been hearing from and visiting Aboriginal communities and clients in regional NSW, from the Northern Rivers to the Far West, to brief them on the draft and hear their aspirations for cultural heritage protection. Our submission also draws on decades of legal expertise and assistance to Aboriginal people and communities in heritage, planning and environmental law matters.

We strongly support standalone legislation with new Aboriginal institutions and decision-making. In particular we support the broader recognition of Aboriginal cultural heritage, including intangible heritage;  a new information system for mapping, monitoring and reporting; greater Aboriginal responsibility for heritage management and oversight, compliance and enforcement; and associated opportunities for empowerment, capacity-building, employment and self-determination.

However, we make recommendations to address concerns regarding: excessive ministerial powers and open-ended discretions, such as for ‘declaring’ ACH; the lack of any public information or discussion of major resourcing questions, in particular how (and whether) the ACH Authority and Local Panels will be fully resourced to fulfil their functions and invest in Aboriginal capacity-building; limited explanation to communities about how new definitions will be implemented in practice, protections for declared ACH, or the practicalities of registering intangible ACH; the exclusion of major projects from standard assessment pathways and harm offences; the need for clarity around which activities will need to follow the assessment pathway; and the clear imbalance in review and appeal rights that favours developers over Aboriginal people whose heritage is affected, contrary to the aims of the reforms and draft Bill.

See: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Reforms: 6 things you need to know

Make your submission

Draft Revision of the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy: Australia's Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 –  EDOs of Australia submission

March 2018 –  Download submission.

This submission addresses five areas:

  1. Key findings of the five-year review of Strategy implementation
  2. SMART targets (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely)
  3. Key findings of the State of the Environment Report 2016
  4. Draft Revision: Vision, Goals, Objectives, ‘Action inventory’.
  5. An effective biodiversity strategy needs stronger environmental laws.

In addition, our key comments on the Draft Revision include:

  • The focus on biodiversity should be clear throughout the Strategy
  • Links between economy, society and environment must be unequivocal
  • The Draft Revision includes high-level goals and objectives, but no strategies or actions
  • Draft objectives invite the questions: What are governments committing to do and how will success be measured?
  • Supporting principles are too vague and do not recognise the need for improved data and funding
  • Actions inventory is no substitute for clear targets, actions and responsibilities.

Link to this page.