IPA Red Tape Research

Written by:
16 August 2023
IPA Red Tape Research - Featured image

The information and analysis below is based on research by the Institute of Public Affairs on the rapid growth of red tape in mining and agriculture, and specific initiatives to reduce this red tape.


Headline Stats

At the national level, our study finds that, since the year 2000:

  • Spending on the Commonwealth’s environmental bureaucracy has increased by 470%, while the size of the agricultural industry nationwide has increased by only 175%.
  • The Commonwealth’s environmental bureaucracy has grown at nearly three times the rate as the agricultural sector.
  • For every job created in the environmental bureaucracy, 14 jobs have been destroyed in Australia’s agricultural sector

The total number of staff employed by environmental departments nationwide is estimated to amount to 34,604 people. By contrast, the size of Australia’s regular army by headcount is 29,399. This means that the size of the nation’s taxpayer-funded green tape army is almost 20% larger than the size of the regular army.

At the state level in Western Australia our study finds that, since the year 2000:

  • Western Australia’s environmental bureaucracy spending has increased by 635%, while the size of the state’s agricultural sector has only increased by 115%.
  • The growth of the Western Australian environmental bureaucracy is 5.5 times the growth of the agricultural industry over this period.
  • For every job created in Western Australia’s environmental bureaucracy, 21 jobs have been destroyed in the Western Australian agricultural sector.

We find that since the year 2000 in Queensland:

  • Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy spending has increased by over 550%, while the size of its agricultural sector has only increased by less than 170%.
  • This means the growth of Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy was over three times the growth of the agricultural sector since 2000.
  • The number of people in Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy has increased by more than 50%, while employment in agriculture throughout the state has halved.
  • For every job created in Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy over the last two decades, over 40 jobs have been destroyed in Queensland’s agricultural sector.

New South Wales

We find that since the year 2004 in NSW (earliest available data):

  • NSW’s environmental bureaucracy spending has increased by 1,376% since 2004, while the size of its agricultural sector has only increased by 222% since 2004.
  • This means that the growth of NSW’s environmental bureaucracy was more than six times the growth of the agricultural sector from 2004.
  • The number of people in NSW’s environmental bureaucracy has increased by 158%, while employment in agriculture throughout the state has declined by 8% since 2004.

Western Australia

Opportunities to Cut Red Tape on Agriculture in West Australia 

Bushfire protection 

Problem:

Regulation on farmers and private landowners which undermines their ability to mitigate bushfire risk. 

Solution:

Amend Schedule 6 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act)to remove the need for a permit in order toclear native vegetation to minimise the risk to buildings and infrastructure that could be posed by bushfires. In December 2017, the Environmental Protection Amendment (Clearing for Fire Risk Reduction) Bill 2017 was introduced as a Private Members Bill by a member of the Opposition Liberal Party. If passed, this Bill would allow clearing of native vegetation within 25 metres of a private dwelling-house without a permit to prevent the risk from a bushfire event. This Bill should be amended to increase the permit-free clearing zone from 25 metres to 100 metres and reintroduced into parliament. 

Red tape on pastoral leases 

Problem:

The Land Administration Act 1997 imposes strict limitations on the use of land under pastoral lease, inhibiting investment and development. 

Solution:

Amend the definition of “pastoral purposes” under Section 93 of the Land Administration Act 1997 (LA Act) toinclude “other commercial activities as specified by pastoral lease holder”, and remove Division 5 of Part 7 which requires the acquisition of permits for the undertaking of activities which are not directly related to pastoral activities. For example, permits are required for a lessee to undertake “non-pastoral agricultural activity” such as in relation to crop, fodder, and horticultural activities; to undertake a ‘tourist activity’, such as guided bushwalking; and to clear vegetation for the purposes of “promoting the growth of indigenous pasture of otherwise facilitating or improving the working of the lease.” Pastoralists are best positioned to put their land to its highest use, and should be free to do so.  

Native vegetation red tape 

Problem:

Native vegetation red tape stops productive land management. 

Solution:

Remove “dead vegetation” from the definition of  “native vegetation” as per sub-section 3(1) and section 51A of the EP Act. This means that farmers and private landowners could clear dead vegetation, like dead trees, without the need for a permit. 

Also remove the “grazing of stock” from the definition of native vegetation “clearing” as per Section 51A of the EP Act, so that stock would be permitted to graze on pastoral land unencumbered by native vegetation laws. 

Also remove sections 51H Clearing permit conditions and 51I Some kinds of conditions from the EP Act so that conditions cannot be attached to native vegetation permits. Permits should be granted on the basis that the land on which native vegetation clearing is taking place is private land, not public property, and governments should not have the ability to interfere in the manner in which clearing takes place once a permit is granted. 

Red tape on agricultural irrigation 

Problem:

Red tape prevents development on land under pastoral lease. To build an irrigation pivot on pastoral land requires eight different permits and licences including a Water License, a License to construct a bore, a Clearing Permit, a Diversification Permit, a Development approval, a Building License, Crown Land Access Licenses, and General PurposeLeases and Development Leases over Crown Land. 

Solution:

Removing restrictions on the development of irrigation imposed under the LA Act. The definition of “pastoral purposes” under Section 93 of the LA Act should be changed to explicitly include irrigation pivots as a supplementary use of land inseparable from, essential to, or normally carried out in conjunction with the grazing of authorised stock. To the greatest extent possible, rather than requiring explicit permission through a licence or permit, development should be allowed as long as it is carried out to existing legal standards 

Management of pests and wildlife 

Problem:

Regulations limit the ability of private landowners to manage pests and wildlife which can be a threat to livestock, crops, and human health. 

Solution:

Remove the requirement for a farmer or landowner to obtain a fauna causing damage licence under the Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2018 in order to control or manage native fauna which is causing, or is likely to cause, impact or potential impact on public health, economic damage, biodiversity damage or an impact or potential impact on biosecurity. 

Restricted access vehicles  

Problem:

There are limitations on which roads Restricted Access Vehicles (RAV) (heavy vehicles and combinations which do not meet the standards set out in the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014) can travel on. This raises transport costs, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. 

Solution:

While there is scope for roads to be added to the RAV road network through an application, this network should be expanded by establishing clear guidelines in the Guidelines for Approving RAV Access, Standard Restricted Access Vehicle Route Assessment Guidelines, and Tri Drive Route Assessment Guidelines for roads to be included in the network and automatically including such roads.  

Heavy vehicle registration fees 

Problem:

As part of the Western Australian government’s COVID-19 economic response, the increase in registration fees for light vehicles due to increase on 1 July 2020 was delayed. Heavy vehicle registration fees, however, increased by 2.5% on 10 July 2020. This increase was over the expected inflation rate of 2%, and well above the actual inflation rate in year to June 2020 of -0.3%. This increases costs of transport, with a pronounced effect on small and medium-sized businesses. 

Solution:

The 2.5% increase should be scrapped, and those who have already paid the increase should either be refunded the 2.5% increase, or have an equal credit applied to their next registration cost. 

Opportunities to cut red tape on mining in WA

Building approvals

Problem:

Prior to construction of accommodation villages and office buildings companies are required to obtain development approvals from local government shires under the Planning and Development Act 2005 and the Building Act 2011. These approvals are required even where state government approvals are also required.

Solution:

The provisions within the Planning and Development Act 2005 and the Building Act 2011 which require local government approval on matters where approval is already required under state government processes should be repealed.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Problem:

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is empowered by the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act)to assess proposals that are likely to have a significant environmental impact.

When a project is considered “significant” it must go through the Environmental Impact Assessment process. However, the EP Act does not define the terms “significant impact” or “significant effect”. Bureaucrats at the EPA are therefore afforded wide discretion in their interpretation of what constitutes a “significant” impact or effect.

Solution:

The EP Act should be amended to define the terms “significant impact” and “significant effect” as “actions that are likely to have a long-term and irreparable environmental impact on a geographical area extending beyond the private land of the proponent, and which cannot be mitigated through rehabilitation or environmental offsets.” This will lessen  the discretion and power of environmental bureaucrats.

Frequency of reporting

Problem:

Reporting obligations impose a significant red tape burden with no discernible regulatory or community benefit. For example, under Sections 85A(1), (2), and 85B(1) of the Mining Regulations 1981, holders of mining tenements are required to submit quarterly production reports and royalty returns.

Solution:

Instead, holders of mining tenements should be given the option to submit production reports and royalty returns on an annual basis.

All other similar reporting obligations should be able to be submitted on an annual basis, and reporting for all low-risk and routine activities, such as water boring, transportation, and the construction of donga, food facilitates, and storage facilitates, should be repealed.

Duplicative reporting

Problem:

Mining proponents are required to submit a range of reports which contain identical or similar information to different departments at the state and Commonwealth level of government. This imposes significant costs on proponents and on departments, with little or no benefit.  For example, under the Mining Act 1978 all mining projects with an Annual Environmental Report condition must submit an annual report. And under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, approval holders must submit annual compliance reports where required under their approval conditions.

Solution:

The Western Australian government should remove all reporting obligations which are already required under federal government legislation.

Multiple permits for the same activity

Problem:

Project proponents are in some instances required to obtain multiple permits for undertaking multiple identical or repetitive activities. For example, proponents may be required to obtain multiple Oversize Overmass permits from Main Roads to conduct multiple trips with restricted access vehicles.

Roy Hill was required to obtain 150 separate approvals for the haulage of heavy, wide, and/or long loads on gazetted (public) roads.

Solution:

The state government should allow for one single project-wide Oversize Overmass permit. This permit should apply to unlimited trips of restricted access vehicles required for a given project. 

Water management approvals

Problem:

Management of water is covered under three separate acts in Western Australia, the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, and the Mining Act 1978. As a result, there is some overlap between different acts which causes unnecessary regulatory duplication. For example, a license to take water must be obtained under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 before a mining proponent can dewater a mine. However, in using surplus water from the dewater, proponents are often required to obtain environmental approval under either Part IV or Part V of the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

Solution:

The requirement to obtain a water license under the EP Act should be abolished.

Cost recovery

Problem:

Cost recovery obligations impose fees on proponents to compensate regulators for the cost of regulating. Examples of cost recovery affecting mining projects are licensing fees and charges under the Mining Act 1978, the Environmental Protection Act 1986, and the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914. 

Solution:

Cost recovery obligations should be removed with regulatory activities being funded through general revenue. Project proponents who are creating investment and jobs should not be required to pay for the cost of regulation, especially given the billions they contribute through company tax, payroll tax, GST, royalties,licenses and stamp duty.

Annual environmental reports

Problem:

Comprehensive annual environmental reports are required to be submitted annually under different legislation requiring variations of similar information. For example, mining projects are required to submit an Annual Environmental Report under the Mining Act 1978, an Annual Audit Compliance Report under Part V of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act),and Compliance Assessment Reports under Part IV of the EP Act.  

Solution:

These costly reporting requirements, with minimal environmental benefit, should be replaced with a system of reporting by exception. This would require mining projects to only report anomalies and non-compliances and be subject to risk-based auditing inspections by the relevant regulators. The transition away from mandatory reporting could also be achieved by exempting projects from being required to report where they can demonstrate full regulatory compliance over a six-month period.

South Australia

Opportunities to Cut Red Tape on Agriculture in South Australia

Grazing of native vegetation 

Problem:

There are a number of restrictions on livestock grazing of native vegetation under the Native Vegetation Act 1991. These restrictions impose an unnecessary burden on farmers. For example, native vegetation can be cleared through grazing if it is an ‘ongoing grazing practice’, meaning that practices have not changed over the past 10 years in terms of the area grazed, manner, rate and stock species. If a farmer wanted to change the species grazing in a specific area, or slightly increase the area being grazed, that would require the landowner to prepare a Management Plan under the Native Vegetation Council’s Guideline under Regulation 11(26) of the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017, the Management Plan would have to be approved by the Native Vegetation Council, and the grazing must be undertaken in accordance with the Management Plan. 

Solution:

Repeal the Guideline under Regulation 11(26) of the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017, repeal Schedule 1, Part 3, clause 26 of the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017, and amend Schedule 1, Part 1, clause 5 of the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017 to allow for grazing of native vegetation in all circumstances where the grazing will not result in permanent degradation of the native vegetation, regardless of species change, area grazed, or any other limitations. 

Notification for clearing of native vegetation 

Problem:

Landowners are required to provide notification to the Native Vegetation Council before they can clear native vegetation in order to maintain an existing vehicle track or to establish a strip of cleared land on either or both sides of a new or existing fence. This prevents landowners from properly maintaining access to and around their property and prevents the maintenance of the condition of that property and infrastructure on the property. 

Solution:

Remove the requirement for landowners to notify the Native Vegetation Council of clearing in relation to maintaining vehicle tracks by amending Schedule 1, Part 2, Division 13, clause 1 of the Native Vegetation Regulations 2017 to exclude ‘maintaining an existing track’ as an instance in which clearance is permitted but notification is required. Additionally, Schedule 1, Part 2, Division 14 should be moved into Part 1 of Schedule 1 to remove the requirement for notification when clearing in relation to establishing a strip of cleared land on either or both sides of a new or existing fence. 

Transport of GM crops 

Problem:

An exemption notice is required under Section 6(2)(a)(iii) of the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 to transport genetically modified seeds through South Australia. This imposes a barrier to, and increases the costs of, internal trade by imposing a complex process to obtain an exemption notice with the alternative of transporting genetically modified seeds between Australian states through coastal shipping. 

Solution:

Amend the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 to allow genetically modified seeds to be transported through South Australia. Rather than imposing specific conditions on exemption notices issued to individual proponents, general standards can be set out under the Act and its associated subsidiary legislation to regulate the transport of genetically modified seeds through South Australia, such as requirements to seal seeds in a labelled, unbreakable container. 

Management of pests and wildlife 

Problem:

Regulations limit the ability of private landowner to manage pests and wildlife which can be a threat to livestock, crops, and human health. 

Solution:

Remove the requirement for landowners to obtain a Permit to Destroy Wildlife to manage native animals under the National Parks and Wildlife (Wildlife) Regulations 2019. This will allow landowners to manage native animals that are causing or likely to cause damage to property, livestock, crops, the environment, and human health. Additionally, the definition of “protected animal” under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 should be amended to exclude native animals which are abundant or considered to be a pest. 

Pastoral leases 

Problem:

The Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 imposes strict limitations on the use of land under pastoral lease, inhibiting investment and development. 

Solution:

Amend the definition of “pastoral purposes” under Section 3 of the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 to allow land holders to engage in activities tangentially related to the pasturing of stock, such as to allow for tourism activities. 

 And, permit pastoralists to convert their land to freehold for a small fee. 

Financial costs of native vegetation clearance 

Problem:

Under the Native Vegetation Act 1991, landholders must apply for consent to either the relevant Minister or the Native Vegetation Council to clear native vegetation. Under Part 5, Section 28(3)(ii)(C), applicants must pay a fee to have their application assessed. This imposes unnecessary costs on landholders in order to use their own land, diminishing their property rights. 

Solution:

Part 5, Section 28(3)(ii)(C) of the Native Vegetation Act 1991 should be deleted to remove the cost burden imposed on landholders to apply to clear native vegetation. This will restore some of their property rights infringed by the Native Vegetation Act 1991

Principles of native vegetation clearance 

Problem:

The Native Vegetation Act 1991 sets out the principles of native vegetation clearance, which should guide the Native Vegetation Council’s opinion of whether or notnative vegetation is allowed to be cleared. Currently, these principles only consider the environmental impact of native vegetation clearance, without allowing for the consideration of social, economic, or commercial benefits. 

Solution:

Schedule 1, Part 1 of the Native Vegetation Act 1991 should be amended to include considerations of social, economic, and commercial benefits in deciding whether or notnative vegetation should be cleared. This will encourage the Council to recognise the opportunity costs of environmental protection, many of which are borne by private landholders. 

Environmental authorisation conditions 

Problem:

Under Part 6, Division 4, Clause 45 of the Environment Protection Act 1993, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) can impose conditions on environmental authorisations. These conditions are often unnecessarily onerous, overly prescriptive, and process-oriented rather than risk-based and outcomes-oriented.  

Solution:

Remove the ability for the EPA to impose conditions based on discretion. Instead, conditions should be based on clearly stated principles set out in the Environment Protection Act 1993. Authorisations should be granted on the basis that the land on which development is taking place is privately-held land, not public property, and government should not have the ability to interfere in the manner in which development takes place once an authorisation is granted. 

Northern Territory

Opportunities to Cut Red Tape on Agriculture in the Northern Territory 

Native Vegetation 

Problem:

Native vegetation red tape on agriculturalists and private land owners stops productive land management. 

Solution: 

Repeal Section 10(2) of the Environment Protection Act 2019 which requires development proposals to undergo a cumulative environmental impact assessment process, meaning that the environmental impacts of a given proposal must be assessed alongside the environmental impacts of other proposals under consideration.  Related provisions which apply to infrastructure construction and fire breaks should also be removed. 

The Pastoral Land Board should add clearing of “vegetation regrowth” and “dead vegetation” to the activities not requiring approval in the Northern Territory Pastoral Land Clearing Guidelines as enabled by Section 38 of The Pastoral Land Act 1992. 

Bushfire protection 

 Problem:

The ability of local farming communities to effectively manage bushfires is undermined by increased centralisation of BushfiresNT and restrictions on clearing firebreaks.

Solution: 

Amend the Land Clearing Guidelines in the Northern Territory Planning Scheme 2020 to allow for firebreaks around property boundaries of up to 30 metres for all properties. Boundaries are currently restricted to 5 metres on properties less than 8 hectares and 10 metres on properties more than 8 hectares. Further, all restrictions on protecting infrastructure with firebreaks should be removed.

Restrictions on productive land use 

Problem:

The productive use of land is undermined by leasehold arrangements that remove incentives for long-term investment and development and can subject land to native title requirements which can result in more red tape. 

Solution:  

Under current arrangements, the option to convert pastoral leases to freehold land is included in some but not all lease agreements between the government and agriculturalists. The option to convert pastoral leases to freehold land should be made a default of all agreements as allowed by Section 55 of the Crown Lands Act 1992. 

Expand the release of Crown land to freehold land as allowed by Part 3 Division 1 of the Crown Lands Act 1992

Pastoral Leases 

Problem:

The Pastoral Land Act 1992 imposes strict limitations on the use of land under pastoral lease, inhibiting investment and development. 

Solution:  

Amend the definition of “pastoral purposes” in Section 3 of The Pastoral Land Act 1992 by removing “or other non-dominant uses essential to” and “or inseparable from” to allow for agricultural uses not directly related to pastoral activities.   

Remove Part 7 of The Pastoral Land Act 1992 which requires a non-pastoral use permits for activities such as cropping, horticulture, and forestry activities. 

Private dams 

Problem:

Farmers are subjected to unnecessary restrictions on the construction of private dams. This undermines the ability of farmers to access water and make productive use of their land. Add, and to prepare for droughts and fires. 

Solution:

The Environment Minister should widen the specification of dams interfering with waterways that are allowed to be constructed without a permit as enabled by Section 40(10) of the Water Act 1992. The current exemption applies to rural dams with a bank height of less than 3 metres and a catchment area of less than 5 square kilometres. This should be increased to a bank height of 10 metres and a catchment area of less than 20 square kilometres. 

Livestock transport 

Problem:

Inconsistency in livestock transport requirements and unnecessary weighing requirements increases travel times which increases the transport costs and undermines animal welfare. 

Solution:

Remove the requirement for cattle trucks to be weighed at government bridges by amending page 90 if the Heavy Vehicles Driver’s Handbook and repealing Section 64(d) of the Motor Vehicles Act 1949. 

New South Wales

Opportunities to cut red tape on agriculture in NSW

Problem:

Farmers in NSW have requested the government make changes to the Biodiversity Conservation Act, so that the onus of proof lies with the prosecutor and not with the landowner with regards to the clearing of native vegetation offences. NSW farmers are presumed guilty until they prove themselves innocent. This undermines the fundamental principle of the criminal justice system, whereby every person accused of a crime is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Solution:

Remove section 13.28 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act. The onus of proof should be on the prosecutor and not the landowner.

Solution (2):

Remove section 60n of the Local Land Services Act. The onus of proof should be on the prosecutor 

Problem:

A landowner must apply to remove vegetation. The application requires the landowner to obtain a biodiversity development assessment report (BDAR) of the proposed clearing. This report, which must be paid by the landowner, must be developed by an accredited assessor using the biodiversity assessment method. Further, the landowner must also include an assessment of the impacts of the proposed clearing. This includes the social and economic impacts, as well as environmental impacts that are not addressed by the BDAR, such as soil erosion, salination, acidification or other adverse land or water impacts. 

Solution:

Remove section 60zg of the Local Land Services Act. The requirement of the landowner to fund BDAR and other reports places an excessive burden on the landowner. If the BDAR and other reports are required to be completed, it ought to be expensed by government and not the landowner.

Problem:

If a landowner applies to remove vegetation, and it is approved, they need to purchase biodiversity credits as a part of the biodiversity offset scheme or pay the biodiversity conservation fund directly. This place an additional cost on landowners when seeking to clear vegetations and will disincentive business activity. 

For context, a residential development in Moruya paid $79,500 into the biodiversity conservation fund to offset its biodiversity impact. Further, the Rye Park Wind Farm development was required to pay $33.8m to offset its biodiversity impact.

Further, the scheme was audited in 2022, which founds the government scheme had failed because its policy had no strategy or safeguards. There were also concerns around the scheme’s transparency, and integrity. 

Solution: 

Remove section 60zg of the Local Land Services Act which requires landowners to purchase biodiversity credits in exchange for clearing native vegetation.

Or – Remove part 6 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act – which legislates the Biodiversity Offset Scheme.

Problem: 

Schedule 4 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 lists the removal of dead and dead trees as a key threatening process. The removal of dead wood and dead trees includes: the removal of fallen branches and litter as general ‘tidying up’, and the removal of standing dead trees. If farmers are required to clear dead trees in order operate their business, they can be seen as engaging in a key threatening process. Therefore, a farmer can be seen as threating biodiversity when clearing dead vegetation.  

Solution:

Amend schedule four of the Biodiversity Conservation Act which states the removal of dead wood and dead trees is a key threatening process. 

Land Management

Problem:

A change to the Pesticides Act 1997 in April 2022 provided the EPA increasing power to regulate. Previously, the EPA required authority from the minister when making a pesticide control order. The update to the Act gave the EPA the authority to make a pesticide control order without the authority of the minister.

Solution:

Remove section 28 of the Pesticides Act 1999. The EPA should not be granted of making a pesticide control order without the approval of the Minister. This puts far more power into the hands of the EPA and gives them easier power to impose green tape which can inhibit farmers ability to operate.

Problem:

If a landowner is suspected of having a contaminant on their land, they need to pay costs that the EPA incurred in the preparation of serving a management order. So to put it otherwise, the landowner needs to pay for the costs that the EPA has incurred through its regulatory activities. This placed a burden on the landowner, who may not be able to absorb the costs. 

Solution:

Remove section 33-36 of the Contaminated Land Management Act.

Problem:

If the EPA gives may give a clean-up notice to a person under section 19 of the Pesticides Act 1999. The EPA may require the person to pay all or any reasonable costs and expenses incurred by the authority in with monitoring action under the notice, and ensuring that the notice is complied with, and any other associated matters.

Solution:

Remove section 28 of the Pesticides Act 1999. The landowner should not be required to pay for the costs that the government has incurred in its regulatory activity.  This imposes excessive costs on businesses.

Problem:

The EPA may direct a clean-up action to a person they suspect has caused a pesticide pollution. On top of the requirements which are made in the order which outlines various requirements, enables the EPA to recover the administrative costs of preparing and giving clean up notice. A person who is given a clean-up notice must within 30 days pay the fee to the EPA. A person who does not pay the fee within the time provided is guilty of an offense – which face a penalty of $20,000.

Solution:

Remove section 22 of the Pesticides Act 1999. A landowner should not be required to pay for the cost of staffing regulations in the regulatory activities. This imposes a burden on the landowner who unable to bear the costs. 

Stock grazing 

Problem:

Stock owners in rural areas are required to obtain a permit for their stock to be able to use public roads. Stock owners may be required to walk stock from one property to another to undertake day to day activities, therefore the requirement of a permit can be burdensome on stock owners.

Solution: 

Amend section 73 of the Local Land Services Act to exclude stock owners from this rule.

Bushfire protection 

Problem:

Regulation on farmers and private landowners which undermines their ability to mitigate bushfire risk. 

Solution:

Expand the radius around buildings for clearing to mitigate bushfire risk by amending the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice rule under the Rural Fires Act 1997. The current code allows for clearing of trees within 10 metres and the clearing of shrubs within 50 metres of residential accommodation, high-risk facilities, and farm sheds without seeking approval. The 10/50 rule should be replaced with a 25/100 change to 50  to 300 meter rule allowing the clearing of trees within 25 change to 50 metres and the clearing of shrubs within change to 300 metres 100 metres of residential accommodation, high-risk facilities, farm sheds, and other associated infrastructure.

Native vegetation 

Problem:

Native vegetation red tape stops productive land management. 

Solution: 

Remove Section 60B(3) of the Local Land Services Act 2013 that extends the definition of native vegetation to dead vegetation. This means that farmers and private landowners could clear dead vegetation, such as dead trees, without the need for a permit. 

Compensate landowners for offset requirements under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme. Landowners should not be expected to cover the full cost of providing biodiversity outcomes for public amenity. 

Repeal Section 47(c) of the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018 which prohibits the clearing of native trees and shrubs which fall under Parts 2 and 3 of the Code, and includes matters such as the thinning of woody native vegetation. 

Repeal Section 13.28 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 which places the onus of proof on the landowner to prove clearing was lawfully conducted. 

Grazing in National Parks 

Problem:

The NSW government does not currently allow grazing in national parks. Allowing farmers to graze stock in national parks would add value to the agricultural industry and help mitigate bushfire risk by controlling fuel loads. 

Solution:

The Minister for Energy and the Environment should permit grazing in National Parks. The Minister has the discretion to do so under Section 40(2) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 No 80

Koala State Environment Protection Policy 

Problem:

Landowners are having their property rights curtailed by environmental policies such as the Koala State Environment Protection Policy (SEPP). The proposed Koala SEPP will widen the definition of Core Koala Habitat and expand areas subject to increased regulation. Farmers with land designated as Core Koala Habitat will be required to seek approvals for farming activities, such as erecting a shed, or pay for assessments to prove their land is not Core Koala Habitat.   

Solution:

The NSW government should not proceed with the proposed Koala SEPP. 

Management of pests and wildlife 

Problem:

Regulations limit the ability of private landowners to manage pests and wildlife which can be a threat to livestock, crops, and human health. 

Solution:

Remove “non-threatened native animals”, such as kangaroos, rats, and poisonous snakes from the definition of “protected animals” under Schedule 5 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW), and remove licensing requirements for non-commercial culling of kangaroos. 

Water Management 

Problem:

Farmers have had their irrigation allocations heavily reduced with many having no allocation at all despite dams being near capacity. 

Solution:

The Murray Darling Basin Plan has fundamentally failed to balance environmental outcomes with the water needs of farming and Basin communities. The Plan should either be reformed or replaced in order to increase water allocation to farmers.  Agricultural purposes should be given priority allocation in dry years over environmental uses. The plan should cease water recovery from agricultural purposes.   The plan should not allow for flooding of private land with environmental flows without the consent or compensation of landowners.

Queensland

Opportunities to cut red tape on mining in Queensland

Green activist lawfare  

Problem:

Environmental groups engage in vexatious ‘lawfare’ where they use the legal system to delay project assessment with the aim of discouraging development. This causes delays and imposes onerous costs on project proponents. And at times, risks projects. Specifically, under Section 260 of the Mineral Resources Act 1989, any entity may lodge an objection to an application for the grant of a mining lease.  This has led to the number of objections steadily rising, causing longer delays and expense.   

Solution:

Amend Section 260 of the Mineral Resources Act 1989 to allow only entities with a direct property rights interest in the development to lodge objections to mining lease applications.   

Problem:

An individual or their representative can lodge a legal objective regarding the same project through two separate avenues – Section 260 of the Mineral Resources Act 1989,and Section 160 of the Environment Protection Act 1994. Separate to this, the same individual could potentially also lodge a legal challenge under relevant local government planning laws, depending on what a given local governments planning laws allow for.  

This allows for frivolous legal challenges to be made multiple times, even where a court has recognised those challenges to be frivolous.  

Solution:

A provision should be inserted into both Section 260 of the Minerals Resources Act 1989 and Section 160 of the Environment Protection Act 1994 which prohibits the same individual making a legal objection under one of the Acts where an objection has been made under the other Act.  

Government funding of green activists 

Problem:

Anti-mining groups lodge legal challenges to disrupt and delay investment in mining projects. The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is one such group which has been actively involved in instigating challenges to coal mining developments in Queensland. According to the Queensland EDO’s 2017-18 annual report, the organisation received over $270,000 in funding from the Queensland government. The government should not provide funding for anti-mining activists. 

Solution:

Immediately cease all government funding of the EDO and other environmental groups engaged in anti-development lawfare.  

Infrastructure 

Problem:

Project proponents often have temporary tenure over land, rather than acquiring the title to that land. In these cases, areas within that tenure may be used for short-term activities, followed by rehabilitation before the land reverts to the activities of the landowner. The preferred method of relinquishing tenure may be through progressive certification, where an area of the tenure is certified as rehabilitated and relinquished to the landowner.  

Section 318ZB(2) and (4) of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 prevents progressive certification by imposing a responsibility on proponents to maintain the rehabilitation in the same condition as at certification; in effect, this means that proponents cannot allow the area to revert to the landholder with infrastructure which was built by the proponent during their tenure, forcing proponents to remove infrastructure that could be added, well used and or repurposed by landowners.  

Solution:

Amend the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to allow for a legislative exemption from Section 318ZB(2) and (4) where, as part of the transfer process, the landholder provides a statement that they are satisfied with a given level of rehabilitation or any transfer of existing infrastructure.  

Water Management 

Problem:

There is no statutory timeframe for decisions for an Associated Water Licence under Subdivision 2 of the Water Act 2000. This allows bureaucrats to prolong the approvals timeframe.  

Solution:

Amend Section 1250F of the Water Act 2000 by inserting the requirement that the Chief Executive must decide to grant, grant in part, or refuse to grant an application within 7 business days. The grounds for refusal of an application must be provided in writing to the project proponent.

Mine rehabilitation  

Problem:

The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 created additional red tape for the mining sector. For example, the Act establishes a “Rehabilitation Commissioner” who is to monitor and report on mining rehabilitation practices in Queensland. There are no requirements that the Commissioner have relevant expertise in the area, and there is a non-trivial risk that the Commissioner could be an environmental activist.  

Solution:

Abolish the role of Rehabilitation Commissioner by amending the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and instead simply detail the terms of rehabilitation in the initial approval process.  The timeframe for permitted rehabilitation should be extended, recognising that there is a natural cycle to rehabilitation. 

Environmental Impact Statements 

Problem:

The Guidelines which accompany chapter 3 of the Environment Protection Act 1994 outline under what circumstances the government can require the provision of an Environmental Impact Statement to be prepared by a project proponent.  

Many of the circumstances are subject, vague, and broad, which provide too much discretion and authority with bureaucrats, with the effect of delaying the approval of major projects in Queensland.   Specifically, the Standard Criteria for an EIS under schedule 4 of the EP Act includes provision such as “intergenerational equity;” “the public interest”, and “any other matter prescribed under a regulation”.   

Solution:

Remove all subjective considerations which could trigger the need for an EIS.  

This means removing “Appendix A—Standard criteria” from the Guidelines and remove Section 3.1: Cumulative impacts.  

Fees and charges imposed on project proponents  

Problem:

In addition to the payment of taxes and royalties, project proponents are also subject to cost recovery obligations and fees and charges associated with the submission and processing of applications for permits to government.  

Industry should not be required to pay for the cost of government regulation, over and above payment already made via taxes , license fees and royalties.  

Solution:

All industry cost recovery and fees and charges should be abolished, for example by repealing Schedule 5 ofMineral Resources Regulations 2013.  

Create a SEZ in North Queensland 

Problem:

North Queensland has been disproportionately impacted by the lockdown measures due to lost tourism, and this is likely to continue for years to come.  Tourism industries and the yachting industry are further impacted by restrictions against killing dangerous  animals, reptiles, marine life, such as crocodiles, snakes, sharks, stingrays, and feral or wild dogs.

Solution:

The Queensland government should make North Queensland (defined as the area above the Tropic of Capricorn) a Special Economic Zone.

Opportunities to cut red tape on agriculture in Queensland

Native vegetation  

Problem:

Laws around ‘regrowth vegetation’ are preventing economic development.  

Solution: 

The Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 extended the definition of ‘high value regrowth vegetation’ to land that has not been cleared for 15 years. The previous definition applied to land that had not been cleared since 31 December 1989. The clearing of high value regrowth vegetation requires approval and is subject to several conditions including the setting aside of an exchange offset area by the landowner. The Queensland government should re-insert the previous definition of “high value regrowth vegetation” and, given the imminent threat of bushfires, retain the original date on 31 December 1989.  

Regulation of agricultural and veterinary chemicals  

Problem:

Certain chemicals used by farmers and landowners must be registered in Australia and regulated under Australian law even where those chemicals have been approved by an overseas regulator of good repute.  

Solution:

Automatically allow the entry of agricultural and veterinary chemicals onto the Australia market where they have been approved by an overseas regulator of good repute, such as US or EU regulators. 

Forced removal of infrastructure   

Problem:

Mining companies are forced to remove infrastructure on farmland or pastoral land even where the farmer or landowner benefits from that infrastructure, such as dams, concrete pads, bore holes, building structures, and fencing.

Solution:

Either repeal Section 318ZB (2) and (4) of Queensland EP Act, or insert a provision into the Act which allows landowners to agree to receive their land, add to their land, or parts thereof, in a certain condition.   

Bushfire protection   

Problem:

Regulation on farmers and (delete private )landowners which undermines their ability to manage and mitigate bushfire risk.   

Solution:

Amend the definition of “essential management” under the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 which allows for vegetation clearing on freehold land so that “essential management” means “where it is reasonably necessary to remove or reduce the risk that the vegetation poses of serious personal injury or damage to infrastructure.”   And Schedule 21 of Planning Regulation 2017 should be amended to allow clearing of up to 300m from infrastructure such as a property for firebreaks, instead of the current 30m.   

Bureaucratic enforcement and penalties for farmers   add and pastoralists 

Problem:

Heavy-handed and intrusive enforcement of native vegetation laws by bureaucrats.   

Solution:

Repeal “Division 1: Enforcement and Investigations”of the Vegetation Management Act 1999 and in its place reintroduce “Division 4B” as in force from 2013 to 2016 so that farmers can undertake vegetation clearing under self-assessable codes of conduct.   

Green activiststargeting farmers  

Problem:

Green groups and left wing lawyers using legal action against  farmers and pastoralists, which is stopping agricultural development, with funding partly provided by government. 

Part Solution:

Stop government funding of the Environmental Defenders Office which received $233,000 in 2018 in grants from QLD government.   

Management of pests and wildlife   

Problem:

Regulations limit the ability of private landowners to manage pests and wildlife which can be a threat to livestock, crops, and add or human health, such as in relation to crocodiles, poisonous snakes, camels, wild and feral pigs, and species such as sharks and stingrays in oceans and river mouths. 

Solution:

Remove the requirement for a farmer or landowner to obtain a license to manage or eradicate pests and abundant wildlife, such as rats and kangaroos, under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006.   And remove “least concern wildlife” from the definition as a “protected animal” by removing Section 71 (a)(vii) of the Nature Conservation Act 1992.  (“Least concern wildlife” is wildlife that is abundant and not threatened or endangered.)   

Problem:

Primary producers who have applied for a Category H (handgun) licence have been consistently rejected by the Queensland Police Services’ Weapons Licencing Branch in recent years without explanation, which is compromising the ability of farmers to manage pest wildlife on their property and lessening their capacity to help animals suffering in great pain. 

Solution:

Add an exemption into Part 5 of the Weapons Act 1990 relaxing the standards for primary producers to obtain a Category H licence. 

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