Draft auditor guidance open for consultation.
- 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
In Queensland, the department administers the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act). The EP Act's emphasis is on managing Queensland's environment within the principles of ecologically sustainable development. Chapter 7, Part 8 of the EP Act deals with managing contaminated land. Managing potentially contaminating activities and known contaminated sites in Queensland helps prevent environmental and health risks.
'Contaminated land' refers to land contaminated by hazardous substances (such as arsenic, DDT, or oil) which 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 the past, land has been contaminated by activities not known to be dangerous at the time, often involving chemicals which have since been banned or are now subject to much stricter controls.
Activities identified as being likely to cause land contamination are listed as 'notifiable activities' in Schedule 3 of the EP Act. Common land uses which can cause contamination include service stations, cattle dips, tanneries, wood treatment sites, landfills, fuel storage, and refuse tips.
In addition to providing advice to local government, industry, and the community on legislative and technical requirements for contaminated land matters, the department reviews contaminated site investigations and approves site management plans.
Under the EP Act, the department maintains two public access registers containing 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 the owner of land recorded on the Registers to inform any occupier, such as persons who are renting, managing, or leasing the land, if the property is:
- listed on the CLR;
- listed on the EMR and subject to conditions of any site management plan; or
- 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.
How is land removed from the Registers?
Land will 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 occurred on the site, or the land has not been contaminated.
The land can be investigated by a consultant who is a member of a prescribed organisation (listed in Schedule 8 of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008). The consultant 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 is removed from the CLR after work has been done to remediate the land and a site investigation report is submitted to the department which satisfies the department that the land is no longer a risk to the environment or public health. In addition, land can be transferred from the CLR to the EMR where a site management plan exists for the land to manage the contamination so it is no longer causing environmental harm or posing a risk to human health.
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 from the department.
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)