In brief: The Papua New Guinea Government has indicated that the first phase of PNG's new environmental regime may commence as early as 1 December 2014. Senior Associate Ryan Warokra reports on the impact the new legislation will have.

BACKGROUND

Conservation and Environment Protection Authority Act 2014

In February 2014, the PNG Parliament passed an Act to set up a new Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA). CEPA will replace the Department of Environment and Conservation as the government agency responsible for administering theEnvironment Act 2000. Of particular note, the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority Act 2014 provides for payment of a new 'environment management fee', non-payment having potentially serious consequences for an environment permit holder. In setting up the CEPA, the Government is continuing its efforts to create more efficient and financially independent agencies to deliver core services.

Environment (Amendment) Act 2014

At the same time as it introduced the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority Act, the PNG Parliament passed theEnvironment (Amendment) Act 2014 providing for supporting and consequential amendments to the Environment Act. Of particular note are increases in maximum fines that may be imposed for breach of certain provisions of the Environment Act and amendments that seek to introduce more clarity around the classification of level 2 and level 3 activities.

There is also talk of amendments to the classification of activities under the Environment (Prescribed Activities) Regulation 2002 but proposed drafts are not yet available to the public.

TIMING

Conservation and Environment Protection Authority Act 2014

In October, the PNG Government indicated that the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority Act may commence operation as early as 1 December 2014. However, timing for commencement of the Act remains uncertain as new regulations (including with respect to CEPA's powers to impose fees and charges) are still in the process of being drafted.

Environment (Amendment) Act 2014

The amendments to the Environment Act will commence in two phases – first, the consequential amendments in connection with the creation of CEPA, which will commence at the same time as the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority Act; and second, the more substantial amendments to the Environment Act that relate to the permitting process and the classification of activities. Timing around the second phase of amendments is uncertain, as it will depend on the drafting of new regulations.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

The commencement of the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority Act will bring into force consequential amendments to the Environment Act in connection with the creation of CEPA. This means that the Managing Director of CEPA will take over the roles and functions of the Director of Environment and that CEPA will now be able to collect fees and charges under the Environment Act.