- Environmental Management Register
- Contaminated Land Register
- Searching the Registers
- How is land recorded on the Registers?
- How is land removed from the Registers?
- What is a site investigation?
- Removing contaminated soil
- What are site management plans?
- UXO-affected land
- Contact details
The department administers the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (the EP Act) which regulates the management of Queensland's environment, within the principles of ecologically sustainable development. Under the EP Act, the department has responsibility for overseeing the management of contaminated land as outlined in Chapter 7, Part 8. By administering the EP Act and ensuring known contamination sites and potentially contaminating activities are managed appropriately, the department is helping to prevent environmental and health risks in Queensland.
'Contaminated land' refers to land that has been contaminated by hazardous substances (such as arsenic, DDT, or oil) and may pose a risk to human health or the environment. Land contamination can occur as a result of poor environmental management and waste disposal practices or accidental spills in industrial or commercial activities. In some cases, land was contaminated in the past by activities now known to be dangerous. Often these cases involve chemicals which have since been banned or are now subject to stricter controls. Common land uses which can cause contamination include service stations, cattle dips, tanneries, wood treatment sites, landfills, fuel storage, and refuse tips. These types of activities, identified as likely to cause land contamination, are listed as 'notifiable activities' in Schedule 3 of the EP Act.
Under the EP Act, the department provides advice to local government, industry, and the community on legislative and technical requirements for contaminated land matters. It is also tasked with reviewing contaminated site investigations and approving site management plans. In line with the requirements of the EP Act, the department maintains two public access registers which contain land-use planning information:
Environmental Management Register
The Environmental Management Register (EMR) is a land-use planning and management register. Land that has been or is being used for a notifiable activity, and about which the department is notified, is recorded on the EMR. The EMR provides information on historic and current land use—including whether the land has been or is currently used for a notifiable activity, or has been contaminated by a hazardous contaminant. Sites recorded on the EMR pose a low risk to human health and the environment under the current land use. Entry on the EMR does not mean the land must be cleaned up or that the current land use must stop.
[NOTE - Land affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO) is not recorded on the EMR. However, for convenience, it is listed on an administrative adjunct to the EMR. While UXO-affected lots are not 'registered' as such, this action provides for the information to be provided as 'additional advice' in response to any search of such lots on the EMR.]
Contaminated Land Register
The Contaminated Land Register (CLR) is a register of 'risk' sites - proven contaminated land which is causing or may cause serious environmental harm. Land is recorded on the CLR when scientific investigation shows it is contaminated and action needs to be taken to remediate or manage the land. Actions could include:
- technical measures to prevent migration of contaminants, or
- full removal of contaminants and off-site treatment to prevent serious environmental harm or public health risks.
Further information can be obtained from the Guideline for contaminated land professionals.
Searching the Registers
A joint search of the EMR and CLR usually forms part of the normal conveyancing process. You will usually need to search both when you are buying a property. You may also require a search if you are considering developing or changing the use of a piece of land. You can request the search yourself, or your solicitor or financial institution can undertake the search on your behalf. You can read more in the information sheets about how to search the register and what a search results means.
How is land recorded on the Registers?
The EP Act requires local governments to notify the department of land in their local government area that has been used for a notifiable activity or contaminated by a hazardous contaminant. This is done by completing and submitting the Notification of land form. Before land is entered on the EMR, the department informs the landowners of the notification. Landowners can make a submission to the department regarding the property's notification and provide any other information known to them before the department decides whether to record the land on the EMR.
Under the EP Act, landowners and occupiers also have responsibilities to notify the department when they become aware their land has been or is being used for a notifiable activity or contaminated by a hazardous contaminant. When a landowner notifies the department that the land has been used for a notifiable activity the land is recorded on the EMR.
The department issues a written notice to the landowner and the relevant local government, advising them when the land is recorded on the EMR.
What to do if your land is on the Registers
The EP Act requires landowners to inform any occupiers, such as persons who are renting, managing, or leasing the land, if the property is:
- listed on the CLR
- the subject of a notice under Chapter 7, Part 8 of the EP Act.
Anyone selling or otherwise disposing of land listed on either Register is also required to give written notice of the land's listing to any potential purchaser.
- listed on the CLR
- listed on the EMR and subject to conditions of any site management plan
- the subject of a notice under Chapter 7, Part 8 of the EP Act.
How is land removed from the Registers?
Land can be removed from the EMR if, at any time, the landowner or local government provides information to the department demonstrating that a notifiable activity has not commenced on the site, or the land is shown to be not contaminated.
The land must be investigated by a suitably qualified person (SQP) to assess its state of contamination. The SQP can then prepare a site investigation report about the land to be submitted to the department for assessment. If the department is satisfied the land is not contaminated, it is removed from the EMR.
Land can be removed from the CLR after work has been done to remediate the land and a site investigation report, by a SQP has been submitted to the department. The site investigation report must satisfy the department that the land is no longer a risk to the environment or public health. In this case the land may also be transferred from the CLR to the EMR if the department has approved an SMP for the land as there is still some contamination that can be safely managed.
For more information on removing or managing land on the EMR refer to issuing of a suitability statement.
What is a site investigation?
Land recorded on either register may be required to be investigated and assessed when an application is made for a material change of use or reconfiguration of a lot under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. Information about the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 can be obtained by referring to development application referrals.
For more information on site investigations and remediation.
Removing contaminated soil
Contaminated soil must not be removed from sites listed on the Environmental Management Register or determined by analysis of soil samples to be contaminated. If you are removing soil from land that is recorded on the EMR, you must obtain a disposal permit.
What are site management plans?
In some cases—for example, park land or land being used for industrial purposes—it is not necessary or practical to remove all the contamination from a site. The land can be partly remediated or covered. The department can approve a site management plan for the land, stating conditions under which the site can be used to prevent the contamination from causing environmental harm or posing a risk to human health.
Site management plans (SMPs) are recorded on the EMR and are provided with any related search of the Registers. Information on whether land is recorded on the EMR or CLR can be accessed by a search of those Registers.
Another type of contamination that affects some areas of Queensland is unexploded ordnance (UXO). UXO is ammunition such as artillery shells, mortar bombs and grenades that did not explode when used. In Queensland, most UXO is found on former training areas and firing ranges used by Australian and Allied Defence Forces, particularly during World War II. UXO may detonate if disturbed, causing a potential safety risk.
The department implements specialised procedures for the assessment and management of UXO-affected land.
If you have further queries please contact:
Waste and Land Contamination Assessments
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
Level 9, 400 George Street
GPO Box 2454
Brisbane QLD 4001
Phone 13 QGOV (13 74 68)
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