26 October 2010
The Federal Governments support for the equitable consideration of social, environment and economic issues under the Water Act is welcome, but the same approach should be taken with its other key environment law, according to the Urban Taskforce. In December last year the Federal Government released a report into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The report was the result of a 14 month review by Dr Alan Hawke.
The Urban Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the review proposed the Commonwealth abandon the approach to ecologically sustainable development that has been in use since 1992.
The review proposed that environmental issues be given first priority, and that significant social and economic issues be reduced to mere second-order considerations, Mr Gadiel said.
The report says: The Review recommends that the Act … emphasise that environmental considerations are to be considered first when making decisions under the Act.
If this proposal is adopted, we could see the expansion of our cities halted on the flimsiest of environmental arguments.
The accepted approach to ecologically sustainable development requires environmental, social and economic factors to be considered together in an integrated decision-making process.
Extreme environment groups have been pushing for unbalanced legislation that requires environmental considerations to always trump the needs of ordinary people.
It was disappointing that the Hawke review came down on their side.
It seems that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had, until now, succumbed to this view.
I hope now that the Federal Governments recent experience with the Water Act will lead it to reject this element of the Hawker review.
The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.