The gradual isolation of Australia from Antarctica about 45 million years ago as a result of continental drift allowed for the extensive development of unique and unusual ecosystems and biodiversity on the Australian mainland and its nearby islands. In order to protect Australia’s rich ecological and cultural heritage, the Australian government tries to balance the protection of important environmental and cultural values with economic and social needs through a statutory framework and decision-making process based on ecologically sustainable development principles. The main Australian environmental statute for this purpose is the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBCA). EPBCA provides for the protection of parts of the Australian environment that constitute matters of national environmental significance (NES). EPBCA, 1999, Ch. 1, Part 1 (Austrl.).
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