The renewed prominence of environmental impact assessment: "A tale of two cities"

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Abstract

Canberra is alive with proposals from the Administrative Review Council and the Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency to reform the federal legal framework for environmental impact assessment. The aim of these proposals is to bring the federal framework into line with policy considerations which have emerged, and international commitments which have been made, in the two decades since the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 was passed. Justice Sackville s decision in Tasmanian Conservation Trust Ine ν Minister for Resources has shown that the existing structure itself retains life when invoked in a properly conceived action. Melbourne has witnessed a general contraction of public environmental and planning inquiry which contrasts with the national trend and the apparent intention of international accords such as Agenda 21. Environmental impact assessment has drawn special treatment. Acknowledging that successive Victorian governments have misinterpreted the Hamer Liberal government's Environment Effects Act 1978, the Victorian Parliament has sought retrospectively to make the triggering of environmental impact assessment entirely a matter of ministerial discretion. Doubt surrounds the ambit of the retrospectivity of the amendment. The amendment was conceived before Justice Sackville 's decision and might still be interpreted subject to it. That it remains arguable that the Victorian dilution of environmental impact assessment law is justifiable within the terms of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment and the Draft National Agreement on Environmental Impact Assessment points to the problem of arriving at a lowest common denominator when consensus among the States is sought in determining national environmental planning policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-263
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental and Planning Law Journal
Volume12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes

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