The Federal Government is preparing to launch a tough new national Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

The government is reportedly preparing its response to the 2020 Samuel Review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, including its recommendation for the establishment of a national agency to enforce environmental law.

A government spokesperson has described the new body as “a tough cop on the beat, resourced and empowered to enforce Australia's national environmental laws.”

The EPBC Act requires any projects that might impact “animals, plants, habitats and places” of national significance to undergo federal assessment and approval.

However, landholders themselves have been allow to determine whether they need to be referred for an assessment, meaning they can choose not to if they believe there would not be an impact on “protected matters”.

A recent report from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) found 400,000 hectares in Queensland, where habitat for threatened species is “likely to occur”, was cleared between 2018 and 2019 to make way for sheep and cattle grazing.

Some farmers complain that having to meet both federal and state requirements is confusing and difficult. 

The federal government says it is working to modernise compliance and enforcement provisions and address concerns around the cumulative impacts of “regulated and unregulated land use”.

“The government has also committed to introduce new legislation in 2023 and to engage on its development with a broad range of stakeholders and partners, including First Nations groups, business, environment groups, scientists and state and territory governments,” a spokesperson from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water has told reporters.

Proposed reforms are set to be released next month.