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"Green tape" in sights of environment protection law review

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A once-in-a-decade review of the nation’s environmental protection laws has kicked into gear, as the responsible minister flags the need for less “green tape”.

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The review will be led by former competition watchdog chairman Graeme Samuel, who will release a discussion paper next month for the review.

Professor Samuel will be flanked by a panel of four experts in indigenous land management, environmental law, agriculture and farming, as well as mining.

The group will travel around Australia during the heavily consultative year-long review, Samuel said on Tuesday.

“I come with a clean sheet of paper, I have no preconceived views,” he said.

Announcing the review on Tuesday, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said it was about streamlining the process, with decisions sometimes taking years.

“I don’t see conservation and agriculture at opposite ends of any spectrum, I see them coming together, working together,” she told reporters in Sydney.

“I do look forward to less green tape.”

Labor says the long decision-making times under the laws are a result of the government’s funding cuts to the sector.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act aims to protect areas of national environmental significance.

This includes wetlands, national world heritage areas, marine parks and habitats of migratory species.

Ley also announced more than $100 million of the nearly $444 million funding to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will be used on projects to improve water quality.

On Monday, more than 240 scientists penned an open letter to the government urging the laws to be strengthened, highlighting the number of native species at risk of extinction.

The scientists pointed to three species that have been wiped out in the last decade, warning that 17 more species face extinction over the next two decades unless greater efforts are taken to protect them.

The minister would not label it a crisis.

“I prefer to look at what we can do, people will label these things as they wish but there is so much we are doing.”

Environment groups are urging the government to take the opportunity to strengthen protection of Australia’s flora and fauna.

“Any observer can see our current environment laws are not properly safeguarding our native species and critical ecosystems,” Australian Conservation Foundation’s Basha Stasak said.

“In the 20 years these laws have been operating, an area of threatened species habitat has been destroyed that is collectively larger than all of Tasmania.”

A draft report has been flagged for June next year, before the final version in October.

-AAP

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