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Tuesday, 12 November 1985
Page: 2030

(Question No. 623)

Senator Sanders asked the Minister representing the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, upon notice, on 15 October 1985:

Why did the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment advise against an Environmental Impact Statement when 3 of the 6 State Departments of Environment requested that an Environmental Impact Statement be done before any decision is made to import the Eurasian Leafcutter Bee (Magachile Rotundata) from New Zealand.

Senator Ryan —The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The object of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 is to ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that matters affecting the environment to a significant extent are fully examined and taken into account in relation to decisions and actions by the Commonwealth.

In forming the view that an environmental impact statement (EIS) was not necessary for the object of the Act to be met, the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment consulted the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Entomology and the environmental agencies in each State, the Northern Territory and the Australia Capital Territory.

The Standing Committee to the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers, which consists of representatives of all State and Territory conservation authorities, at its meeting in March 1985 noted, without disagreement, the Department's intention to recommend that an EIS was not required to meet the object of the Act.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment's recommendation, which I accepted, was based on the following:

A great deal of information on leafcutter bees (Megachile rotundata) and their possible environmental effect had already been amassed and carefully examined. It was considered unlikely that further useful material could be obtained through the EIS process. (CSIRO supported this view).

The proposal had been widely considered by environmental agencies and academic institutions and, following a decision of the Australian Agricultural Council, would be advertised nationally before decisions were taken, and public comment would be sought.

Quarantine/pathological questions were being closely examined under the Quarantine Act and any introduction of the bees would be under strict conditions agreed to by the Australian Agricultural Council.

The issuing of a permit and authorisation under the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act, for release of the bees would be considered in the light of the Act's requirements to regulate the import of animals that could have an adverse effect on native flora and fauna.

Of the wide range of State and Commonwealth agencies consulted, only the New South Wales Department of Environment and Planning was firmly of the view that an EIS was necessary for further consideration of relevant matters. Victoria and Western Australia advised that an EIS might be an appropriate method for such consideration but did not request one. Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory agreed with the Department's position.