IT'S easy to forget how and why things come about and sometimes to lose the original purpose.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was enacted in July 2000 by the Howard Government, replacing the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1975.
It came at the end of the "Decade of Landcare" when Australians were waking up to the potential loss of iconic species and counting the costs of high-profile environmental contamination, pollution and toxicity.
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As an environmental professional who worked through that period, I might be forgiven for thinking that the Act signposted a pathway to value and protect Australia's precious plants and animals.
Imagine how sad I felt to learn recently that in the intervening 20 years we have destroyed eight million hectares of habitat.
To put that in context, the past summer bushfires burned 18 million hectares.
Imagine if just under half of those burned areas never came back!
What a monumental failure of successive Australian governments to oversee implementation of an Act which can so clearly be subverted, ignored and undervalued.
And now the Act is up for a scheduled and timely review.
The independent author of the review, Graeme Samuel, has said: "The foundation of the report was that there is too much focus on process and not enough focus on outcomes and that should be changed entirely."
He has called for an "independent cop" to enforce a new set of laws that might stand a chance of holding up against the commercial pressures that, often enough, simply make very wealthy people even wealthier at the expense of the environment.
Unfortunately, the current federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, seems to be ignoring the government's own advice, ruling out the compliance and enforcement regulator but supporting a set of "National Standards" to enable "single touch approvals".
Forgive me for being sceptical but that just seems like a way to fast track development approvals.
However, the thing we can all do is contribute to local discussions about development.
The next time some bushland or a waterway near you is threatened, get active. Write letters. Make posters. Lobby decision makers.
It seems like the future of biodiversity protection in this country is truly in our hands.