Nature Positive agenda resentment grows as industry slams short timeframe on separate green strategy

Headshot of Remy Varga
Remy Varga
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Minister for Environment Tanya Plibersek.
Minister for Environment Tanya Plibersek. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Industry has been given a “preposterously short timeframe” of three weeks to comment on a significant update to the country’s “Nature Strategy” that covers areas as complex as the future of climate change and a “zero new extinctions” policy.

The three-week period has become the latest battlefront as major resources companies hit back against the Albanese Government’s radical “Nature Positive” legislation, which proposes to overhaul Federal environmental laws to enforce that all future major projects across Australia have a net positive impact on the environment.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water released a consultation document on Thursday for the “update of Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2019-2030”.

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It also revealed the consultation period closes in three weeks on April 4.

A resources industry veteran said the “preposterously short timeframe echoed the secrecy and closed-door strategy” that was fuelling resentment towards the Nature Positive legislation.

The consultation documents for the “Strategy for Nature 2019-2030” ask for feedback on areas as diverse as climate change, reducing extinctions and “mainstreaming biodiversity considerations into government and business decision-making”.

One section talks about the need to ensure “equitable representation and participation in decisions relating to nature, particularly for First Nations peoples”.

“Implementation of the updated strategy will integrate equitable and shared decision-making and support First Nations people to be actively involved in, participate in and lead conservation efforts,” it says.

The consultation paper admits that a strategy of “zero new extinctions” is ambitious” but also says it is “achievable … if we work together with governments, researchers and other partners to monitor and support threatened species”.

The strategy update covering zero extinctions comes as resource giants BHP and Rio Tinto are currently faced with navigating environmental approvals over microscopic water bugs known as stygofauna.

Stygofauna are groundwater-dwelling creatures that are typically millimetres or micrometres in size.

The Albanese Government and its Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek have come under fire for the secretive consultation process with the industry over its Nature Positive laws, with industry stakeholders prohibited from taking phones and laptops into lock-up-style meetings where they are forced to take handwritten notes.

Leaked briefing notes from the Minerals Council of Australia after one of those lock ups warned the proposed changes would drastically reduce investment and impact other sectors, from tourism to housing projects.

Meanwhile Australia’s biggest company BHP warned that the proposed overhaul of national environmental laws could make application processes more complex, blow out approval times and increase costs and litigation risks.

An Environment Department spokesperson said the strategy update was part of a broad suite of ongoing consultation process to improve biodiversity in Australia.

“The update of the Strategy is just the first step in work to update, and then implement, Australia’s contributions under the UN Biodiversity Agreement,” he said.

“Next steps will be planning and delivery which will include further consultation.”

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