Environmental conservation organisations across the state, including peak body the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA), Doctors for the Environment, Lock the Gate, the Wildflower Society of Western Australia and Environs Kimberley are calling on the Cook Government to reject proposed changes to the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The changes follow the Vogel-McFerran review, a short, sharp review of the state’s environmental processes and procedures that occurred over the Christmas period without public consultation. The review delivered 39 recommendations to Government.
Some recommendations have been welcomed by the groups, including proposed increases to staffing, training and data availability for the EPA, and improved coordination within Government.
However other recommendations have environmental organisations concerned, including proposed changes around removing public appeal rights and the Office of the Appeals Convenor; recruiting industry personnel and shareholders, creating conflicts of interest; allowing the Environment Minister to designate projects as carrying State significance, thereby undermining the independence of the EPA; and removing consideration of projects subject to Commonwealth greenhouse gas emissions targets.
Environmental organisations believe the proposed overhaul contradicts calls from scientists and conservation experts to strengthen environmental protections in the state.
Dr Richard Yin, President of CCWA, said “WA has some of the most iconic and unique landscapes in Australia. From the Kimberley region to the north, to the forests in the southwest; from our beaches to our oceans and coral reefs; our natural world is what defines us. Amidst both climate and biodiversity crises, now more than ever WA needs strong environmental protection laws to safeguard the places we love. The Government must strengthen environmental protection and maintain the independence of the EPA.”
Brett Loney, President of the Wildflower Society of Western Australia, said “We are privileged to live in one of only 25 global biodiversity hotspots but we need to protect it. To date we have lost over 70% of its primary vegetation.”
Claire McKinnon from Lock the Gate said "The Cook Government's assault on the EPA will fast track pollution and environmental destruction. Without the scrutiny of the state’s environmental watchdog, it will be easier for gas companies to trash our precious natural landscapes, pollute our waterways, and carve up habitat that's home to our unique and threatened species.”
Emma-Leigh Synnott, Chair of Doctors for the Environment WA, said “Our natural spaces are places of recreation, places that support mental and physical health, and places that, for many, hold deep spiritual and cultural significance. Nature enriches our lives and adds to our overall wellbeing. To safeguard and protect health, we must protect our environment.”
Martin Pritchard, Director of Strategy for Environs Kimberley, said “The Kimberley is known the world over for its spectacular landscapes, unique nature and ancient living culture. Despite this global renown we constantly face destructive development proposals including industrialisation for oil and gas fracking, land clearing by agribusiness and large-scale mines.
Having an independent and well-resourced EPA is essential for the scrutiny of environmentally damaging proposals. We need Premier Cook to support nature and communities and not pander to the mining and fossil fuel industry.”
Dr Tom Hatton, former Chair of the EPA, said “In considering or implementing the recommendations, care should be given that the proposed changes do not: pre-empt EPA independent advice; do not limit the EPA from acquiring the information necessary to provide confident, science-based advice; do not limit the EPA from appropriate public consultation; and do not unreasonably limit the transparency of EPA advice or decision-making. These elements are central to public confidence in statutory environmental protection.”
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost nonprofit, non-government conservation organisation representing nearly 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia. For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please call 0412 272 570