Federal Minister for Environment Greg Hunt
Federal Minister for Environment Greg Hunt Cade Mooney

Hunt says environment laws 'out of balance'

THE nation's top environmental laws are "out of balance" and lacking in enough monitoring of large projects "where the ongoing environmental risk lies", Environment Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday.

Mr Hunt, who is reforming the nation's environmental laws and aims to hand responsibility to the states for assessing major projects, made the comments during a speech in Melbourne.

He said one of the key limitations of the nation's environmental laws was the "project by project assessment" was "relatively reactive", reflecting concerns raised by environmental activists that not enough focus was put on the "cumulative impacts" of new projects.

But Mr Hunt went further, saying the Federal Government's involvement "often occurs too late in the planning process to appropriately manage emerging environmental threats".

"What we have is a system out of balance," he said.

His comments have echoed concerns surrounding the Great Barrier Reef in recent years, and particularly the failures of the assessment and monitoring of major mining and resource projects, and lack of assessment of "cumulative" impacts.

While The Greens and Palmer United Party sealed a deal two weeks ago to stop Mr Hunt's planned handover of environmental approvals to the states, Mr Hunt said the government was pressing ahead with the plans.

Mr Hunt also cited recent comments made by former Labor Resources Minister Martin Ferguson supporting the government's reforms, saying the "opportunity has never been fully realised".