A scathing auditor's report into the administration of federal environment laws has come as no surprise to environmental groups in Tasmania, which say recent court decisions have proven how ineffective the government handles the laws.
The Australian National Audit Office last week released its report into the Environment Department's handling of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, finding there is no risk-based approach, ineffective oversight, referrals and assessments are not being handled properly, the department cannot show conditions of approval are appropriate and compliance data is not being managed appropriately.
The report also highlighted that offsets - in which areas of habitat are improved in one area to compensate for degradation in another area - are having a net negative effect on endangered species, using the Tasmanian Devil as an example.
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A Federal Court decision last year relating to the approval of the Lake Malbena tourism proposal highlighted shortcomings in the administration of the laws, along with a recent case involving the Leadbeater's Possum in Victoria.
The Environment Department has agreed to implement all eight recommendations from the auditor's report.
Wilderness Society Tasmania campaign manager Tom Allen said the audit confirmed the reality of what environmental groups were seeing on the ground.
"It makes a very strong case for the need for environment rules that actually work," he said.
"The too-many Tasmanian threatened species listed under the EPBC are being failed by the national environment laws and their weak enforcement because, in reality, state and federal governments still think economics is the priority and separate from nature when, in reality, they are indivisible."
In the report, the audit office noted that non-compliance was a key issue for decisions being overturned in court.
It also found that a large majority of approvals contained errors.
"Departmental documentation does not demonstrate that conditions of approval are aligned with risk to the environment," the report reads.
"Of the approvals examined, 79 per cent contained conditions that were non-compliant with procedural guidance or contained clerical or administrative errors, reducing the department's ability to monitor the condition or achieve the intended environmental outcome."
In a statement, the federal Environment Department committed to enacting recommendations "to improve our efficiency and effectiveness" in administering the laws.
"As an organisation, we are committed to the continuous improvement of our processes and procedures. The department has already made significant progress to improve our performance which addresses the core findings of the audit," the statement reads.
"The department, business and communities have known for some time that the EPBC Act is complex and cumbersome to administer. This is reflected in the audit findings and those of previous audits."