The negative impact of environmental regulations on jobs, investments and development in Western Australia were highlighted in a new report released by free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

The delay to the planned US$430 million Yeelirrie uranium mine due to the presence of a microscopic ‘prawn-like’ stygofauna, which is unseeable to the human eye, was just one of the examples cited in the new report which focuses on the growth and increasing complexity in the list of protected threatened species.

The report, Decentralisating the Protection of Australian Threatened Species, authored by IPA Research Fellows Morgan Begg, Darcy Allen, and Daniel Wild, found that the size of the federal list of threatened species has increased by 63 per cent since 1992, and by 16 per cent under the current Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The size and growth of the list has created regulatory duplication and uncertainty, and is contributing to the red tape problem holding back Australian prosperity.

While the Yerrilee uranium mine project was eventually approved, there were delays due to a long-running campaign by green activists to save the little known creatures from extinction.

“The current trajectory of threatened species listing is unsustainable, and places significant costs on development and growth,” said IPA Research Fellow, Morgan Begg.

“These costs are disproportionately paid by regional Australia, which hosts the bulk of Australia’s native wildlife.”

“Centralised environmental law, including the threatened species regime, facilitates ‘green lawfare’ – which has cost the Australian economy as much as $1.2 billion in delays since 2000.  These delays come on top of the excessive licencing regimes which already exist in Australia. For example, the Roy Hill mine in the Pilbara required 4,000 government approvals, permits, and licences just during pre-construction.”

The analysis also found that nearly 90 per cent of species listed under federal law are also listed under state law.

“Duplicated species lists delay the development of Australian projects with no benefit to the environment. Meanwhile, the inconsistencies between the different lists creates uncertainty and further stymies development.”

“The solution to this is environmental federalism. Only by embracing jurisdictional competition between the states will duplication be reduced and thus enabling more economic growth whilst maintaining environmental protection,” said Mr Begg.

To download the report click here.