New Environmental Laws To Help Protect Communities

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Innovation The Honourable Leanne Linard
  • Communities will be better protected from environmental issues following passage of the Environmental Protection (Powers and Penalties) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024.
  • The Bill finalises the government’s response to the independent review of powers and penalties under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, which was launched in part due to persistent odour issues experienced by the Ipswich community.
  • The changes strengthen the environmental regulator’s power to ensure operators are actively preventing harm to the community, punish those breaking the law, and force them to take faster clean-up action.

New laws passed today will deliver stronger protections for communities impacted by environmental issues caused by operators.

The Environmental Protection (Powers and Penalties) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 gives the environmental regulator additional tools to prevent environmental harm before it occurs.

Following persistent odour impacts on the Ipswich community from non-compliant waste operators in the Swanbank area, the Labor Government ordered an independent review of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 focused on powers and penalties.

The review was undertaken by retired Judge Richard Jones and Barrister Susan Hedge who recommended a more proactive approach and an emphasis on prevention of harm.

These new laws passed today finalise the government’s response to the review.

The new laws make it clear that that environmental ‘nuisance’ can be considered ‘serious’ or ‘material’ environmental harm.

This allows the regulator to apply a broader range of enforcement tools and stronger penalties for persistent issues, such as odour, that are more proportionate to the impact on the community.

The new laws shifts the focus to proactive prevention of environmental impacts and emphasises human health, wellbeing and safety in our environmental legislation.

The new laws also:

  • include a new tool called an Environmental Enforcement Order (EEO), formed through combining existing enforcement notices, that can be used to require operators to improve on-site processes causing unacceptable environmental harm, such as persistent offensive odour.
  • introduce a new ‘General Environmental Duty’ offence which will apply if someone fails to take reasonably practicable action to prevent or minimise material or serious environmental harm.
  • introduce a ‘duty to restore environmental harm’ requiring operators to restore the environment to the condition it was in prior to a contamination incident.

As stated by the Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for Multicultural Affairs Leanne Linard:

“The passage of this Bill ensures the state’s environmental laws are modern and fit for purpose to meet the needs of the community.

“The significant odour nuisance issues experienced by communities around the Swanbank industrial area sparked the government’s review, but the outcomes will benefit communities across Queensland.

“These changes will help us better manage the increasingly complex regulatory challenges presented when trying to balance industry with community wellbeing.

“These issues are often linked to new housing on land in close proximity to existing industrial activities.

“Today’s amendments will give the environmental regulator a broader range of tools to help them manage these complex issues.”

/Public Release. View in full here.