Shadow Environment Minister Tjorn Sibma has criticised outgoing Environment Minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson, for botching the implementation of two sets of important environmental regulations in her hurry to be promoted to Minister for Health.

The Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021 and the Environmental Protection Regulations Amendment (Prohibited Plastics and Balloons) Regulations 2021 will come into effect on 1 January 2022.

The former charges development proponents a fee to undertake environmental impact assessments, while the latter proposes to ban single use plastics.

“While the premise of the cost recovery regulations is supported by industry, most stakeholders do not believe that the cost recovery model has been properly designed and think that the prices to be charged are unfair. This hastily contrived process has lacked transparency from the start and involved consultation after the fact,” Mr Sibma said.

“I am partly relieved that after sustained Opposition pressure, some project proponents will not incur the new fees until July, and that the scheme will be reviewed after 18 months. It is however essential that the review is independent.”

The Opposition supports the community’s desire to phase out single use plastics and considered that the Government’s original ‘Plan for Plastics’ released in November 2020 was generally, a sensible approach.

The plan was then fast-tracked by ex-Minister Sanderson in July to get a headline, but she did not check with industry or her departmental officials to see if her timetable was achievable.

“The Minister was asked repeatedly in Parliament if all stage-one plastics (including plastic cups) could actually be banned from the start of January 2022 – to which she consistently replied in the affirmative,” Mr Sibma said.

“The regulations now appear to suggest that the ban on disposable beverage cups and lids will not come into effect until October, contrary to the Minister’s assurances. Problems in making the ambitious deadline were however well known by global suppliers.”

“The regulations are also inconsistent. While the sale of plastic straws is thankfully still permitted for those with medical needs, they cannot be displayed by retailers. A special request must be made to buy these items and must include disclosure from the purchaser about their intended therapeutic use. This is despite an exemption for the continued display and sale of straws attached to pre-packaged fruit box drinks.

“I call upon Mr Whitby, Labor’s third Environment Minister in twelve months, to make a fresh start by taking the time to get the details right. He’d make an immediate positive impact by ensuring that unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t just waive through hastily drafted regulations at the busiest time of the year,” Mr Sibma said.