26 Nov 2009

Queensland and Commonwealth agree to new bilateral agreement

by Leah Currie

The Queensland Bilateral Agreement stays substantially the same as the old agreement, however there are some changes.

The Queensland Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability and the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts have signed a new Queensland Bilateral Agreement under section 45 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).

The original bilateral was due to expire in 2009, after five years in effect. However, the new bilateral will continue indefinitely unless terminated or suspended in accordance with the Act, with a five yearly review under the Act.

The Queensland Bilateral Agreement stays substantially the same as the old agreement, however there are some changes, including:

  • The Commonwealth Minister now has the discretion to determine that the bilateral does not apply to an action.
  • The Commonwealth Minister may now provide that the bilateral will have effect even if the action takes place in a Marine Park that is not part of a Commonwealth area. This reflects amendments to the Act that make the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park a matter of national environmental significance, and provide that the bilateral will not apply to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless the bilateral expressly states that it applies. These new amendments come into effect from 25 November 2009.
  • The Commonwealth Minister is no longer restricted by the requirement that Queensland give written notice that the impacts had been assessed before making a decision to approve an action, in accordance with previous amendments to the Act.
  • The 10 business day time limit for the Commonwealth Minister to notify Queensland of every controlled action proposed to be taken in Queensland has been removed, however the obligation to notify remains.
  • The timeframe for Queensland to notify the Commonwealth Minister to confirm whether an action will be assessed in accordance with Schedule 1 of the bilateral has been changed from "as soon as practicable" to a “best endeavours” clause that the notification occur within 10 business days.
  • Queensland must consult with the Commonwealth Minister and use “best endeavours” to obtain agreement on any Terms of Reference and assessment documentation before finalising the documentation.
  • The Schedule to the bilateral now provides that where the EIS process under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 is being followed for an accredited assessment, the Coordinator-General must specify a comment and submission period for the Terms of Reference and draft EIS of at least 28 calendar days, consistent with the requirement in the State Development and Public Works Organisation Regulation 1999 and ensure it is appropriately advertised.

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