Home » The new Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024
Written by: Rachel Gallacher

Results of the Review of the Environmental Protection Act 1994

In 2022, a review of the powers and penalties under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (“EPA”) was conducted as a response to community feedback regarding the environmental impact on new housing land close to zoned industrial areas.

The result of that review was 18 recommendations that could be implemented into the Environmental Protection Act that would better protect the community and the environment.

In March 2023, the Queensland government codified some of those recommendations in the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023.

The remaining recommendations were implemented in the Environmental Protection (Powers and Penalties) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 (the “Bill”), which was passed by Queensland State Parliament on 13 February 2024.


The Purpose of the Bill

The main objectives of the Bill are to ensure the powers and penalties given to the environmental regulator under the EPA are contemporary and fit for purpose. It will also allow for the regulator to identify and prevent environmental harm before it occurs.

The Bill widens the definition of ‘nuisance’ so that it is considered ‘serious or material environmental harm’.


What are the key changes?

The Bill introduces a new offence under section 319 of the EPA for a breach of general environmental duty. The duty is underpinned by the “principle of primary prevention” and aims to deter and mitigate environmental harm before it occurs. This is done by administering the regulator with the authority to inspect private work sites and intervene as necessary.

A duty to restore has also been included in the Bill, which is underpinned by the “polluter pays” principle. If a person causes or permits unlawful environmental harm through contamination, the person has a duty to rehabilitate or restore the environment as far as reasonably practicable. The duty excludes the criteria that the harm must be serious or material but instead provides there need only be an incident of contamination that results in environmental harm.


Adhering to the Bill

Wilful or serious breaches of the general environmental duty and the duty to restore carry fines of up to 4500 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment.

As solicitors, we are always excited to see new laws in action and look forward to reviewing any resultant case law.

As members of the environmental community – it is encouraging the government is listening and responding to community concerns regarding the environment. The Bill is but one example of how community consultation and review of existing legislation can update laws to reflect changing community values and needs.

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