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Policy and legislation changes

This page provides information on updates to the policy and legislative framework for the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) and other legislation administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (the department).

Subscribe to the Environmental Regulatory Update to stay informed.

State Penalties Enforcement Amendment Regulation (No.5) 2016

On 7 December 2016, the State Penalties Enforcement Amendment Regulation (No. 5) 2016 was made by the Governor in Council.

The amendments inserts the following additional Penalty Infringement Notice offences and fines into Schedule 1 of State Penalties Enforcement Regulation 2014 (SPER), under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, entry for section 440ZG ‘Depositing prescribed water contaminants in waters and related matters’:

Penalty Infringement Offence Penalty units (currently $121.90 per Unit)
Individual Corporation

s 440ZG(a) in the circumstances in paragraph (b) of the penalty—

  • if the prescribed water contaminant released is earth from a small building site

15

30

  • otherwise

15

75

s 440ZG(b) in the circumstances in paragraph (b) of the penalty —

  • if the stormwater run-off flows from a small building site

15

30

  • otherwise

15

75

A new definition is also to be included in Schedule 2 (Dictionary) of the State Penalties Enforcement Regulation 2014:

  • Small building site means land with an area of 1000m² or less on which building work within the meaning of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, section 10 is being carried out.

Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2016

On 10 November 2016, the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (Underground Water Management Act) was passed by the Queensland Parliament.

The Underground Water Management Act amends the EP Act and Water Act 2000 to strengthen the effectiveness of the environmental assessment and ongoing management of underground water extraction by resource projects.

These amendments commenced on 6 December 2016.

For further information about these amendments, please view the explanatory notes for the Bill and the explanatory notes for amendments moved during consideration in detail.

More information is also available on the frequently asked questions page.

Changes commencing 8 July 2016

On 8 July 2016, the following amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 commenced:

  • changes to the definition and threshold for commercial activities that chemically treat timber for preservation (ERA 46)
  • replacement of the prescribed standard for wood heaters with two new nationally approved Australian Standards
  • addition of a provision to ensure that only the State (and not local government) has the power to issue environmental protection orders (EPOs) to related persons, as introduced by the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Act 2016
  • correction of drafting errors in relation to devolution of powers to local government and the definition of a year for the carrying out of an environmentally relevant activity.

An amendment to the Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2008 also commenced and corrects a typographical error in Schedule 1.

For further information about these amendments, please download the Amendment Regulation and explanatory notes.

Changes commencing 1 July 2016

On 1 July 2016, the following amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 commenced:

  • increase to fees and charges as a result of indexation (Read the Environment and Heritage Protection Legislation Amendment Regulation (No.1) 2016 for further information)
  • terminology changes to certain classes of protected areas as a consequence of amendments to the Nature Conservation Act 1992. Specifically any reference to:
  • ‘regional park (general)’ is being replaced with ‘conservation park’
  • ‘regional park (resource use area)’ is being replaced with ‘resources reserve’.

Read the Queensland Nature Conservation and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation (No. 2) 2016 for further information.

North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Other Acts Amendment Act 2016

North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Other Acts Amendment Act 2016 (the Act) was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 26 May 2016 and commenced on 14 June 2016.

The Act amends the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act 2011 to effectively repeal amendments made by the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Another Act Amendment Act 2013. These amendments provide for the substantive phase out of mining on North Stradbroke Island by 2019.

The Act also makes minor amendments to the EP Act to clarify that:

  • if a resource tenure ends, the ‘holder’ of the environmental authority for the resource tenure continues to be the person who was the holder of the tenure immediately before it ended
  • an environmental authority continues in force in relation to an activity carried out on land identified by reference to a resource tenure even if the resource tenure expires or is cancelled.

The Mineral Resources Act 1989 is also amended to provide a power to grant a new type of rehabilitation authorisation. The authorisation will enable access to an expired mining lease or mining claim area in order to carry out activities required to meet rehabilitation requirements under the EP Act.

For more detail about the amendments please view the explanatory notes for the Bill and the explanatory notes for Amendments Moved During Consideration in Detail.

Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016

The Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016 (the Act) was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 22 April 2016 and commenced on 27 April 2016.

The Act amends the EP Act to enhance environmental protections and give the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (the department) greater powers to enforce compliance with existing environmental obligations.

The sections below include an overview of the major amendments in the Act. For more detail about these amendments, please view the explanatory notes for the Bill and the explanatory notes for amendments Moved During Consideration in Detail.

Commencement dates

While the Act received assent on 27 April 2016, it applies retrospectively to entities that became the holder of an environmental authority (through a transfer) after introduction of the Bill on 15 March 2016.

Environmental Protection Orders 

An environmental protection order may be issued to a person undertaking environmentally relevant activities to require compliance with environmental obligations. The Act broadens the range of persons and companies who may be issued with an environmental protection order by the department.

The Act enables an environmental protection order to be issued to:

  • related persons of the company undertaking the activity and
  • related persons of ‘high risk’ companies.

Related persons

A ‘related person’ is:

  1. a holding company of the company carrying out the activity
  2. for non-resource activities - a person or company that owns land on which the company carries out, or has carried out the activity
  3. for resource activities - a person or company that is an associated entity of the company and owns land on which the company is carrying out, or has carried out, the activity
  4. a person or company with a relevant connection to the company carrying out the activity either through their ability to:
    1. significantly financially benefit from the activity or
    2. influence the extent of their environmental compliance.

The Act ensures that an owner of the land for the purposes of the related person test does not include native title holders or persons who have been granted land under the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 or the Torres Strait Islander Land Act 1991. The Act also ensures that financial benefits of a compensatory nature will not be grounds for finding that a ‘relevant connection’ exists.

When issuing an environmental protection order to a ‘related person’, the department is also required to consider whether the person took all reasonable steps to ensure that environmental obligations were complied with and that adequate provision was made to finance the rehabilitation of the site.

High risk company 

A ‘high risk company’ is a company that is externally administered (which includes a company in administration, liquidation or receivership) or is a related body corporate of such a company.

Financial assurance conditions for transferred environmental authorities

The Act allows the department to amend an environmental authority to impose a financial assurance condition in the event the environmental authority is transferred or the company that holds the environmental authority is itself transferred to a new holding company.

The condition can only be imposed if the department considers that the condition is necessary or desirable.

Other amendments

The Act also amends the EP Act to:

  • ensure that authorised officers have powers to access sites no longer in operation that may or may not be subject to an environmental authority
  • compel persons to answer questions in relation to alleged offences committed (which would include, for example, compelling employees of a company to answer questions about alleged offences committed by that company)
  • expand the ability of the department to access information for evidentiary purposes
  • ensure that the Courts can only stay a decision about the amount of financial assurance required under a condition of an environmental authority if the administering authority holds security in the amount of at least 75% of the amount it has decided is required
  • increase the grounds that need to be considered or satisfied before a Court can stay a decision to issue an environmental protection order while the decision is under internal review or appeal.

Further information

The Bill was referred to the Agriculture and Environment Committee for consideration. To view the Committee’s report, see the Queensland Parliament website. For further information see the frequently asked questions.

Liquid Fuel Supply Regulation 2016

The Liquid Fuel Supply Regulation 2016 (the regulation) was made by Governor in Council on 11 November 2016 under the Liquid Fuel Supply Act 1984 and is administered by the department.

The regulation prescribes sustainability criteria for biofuels sold under Queensland’s biofuels mandate. The purpose of the criteria is to mitigate unintended environmental impacts associated with an increased demand for biofuels as a result of the mandate.

Division 2 of the Regulation provides industry with flexibility to seek approval for a standard to be considered under the biofuels mandate, provided they are able to provide that the proposed standard is at least equivalent to the sustainability standard of the biofuels mandate.

Further information about the process can be found in the guideline for assessing standards for equivalence with the sustainability criteria for biofuels under the Liquid Fuel Supply Regulation 2016 (PDF, 269K).

Applicants must use the approved application form (Word, 123K)* to apply for a standard to be assessed.

The application must include a side-by-side assessment (Table 4 in the approved form) of the nominated standard against the relevant prescribed standard. For example, a nominated standard covering feedstock derived from sugarcane such as molasses, will be compared against the relevant prescribed standard, which in this example is Smartcane Best Management Practice Program. 

Applicants will need to select and complete the relevant pre-populated template for the side-by-side assessment:

For further information about this regulation and the biofuels mandate please visit the business and industry portal.

Previous changes

EPOLA Act 2014

On 28 October 2014 the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (EPOLA Act 2014) was passed by parliament.

Commencement dates

The following amendments in the EPOLA Act 2014 commenced on 7 November 2014:

  • increases to the maximum penalties for the most serious offences in the EP Act
  • recognition of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area as an area of special significance
  • environmental authority related amendments to improve the operation of the EP Act
  • clarifications and improvements to the EP Act’s EIS process.

Other amendments commenced on 30 September 2015:

  • introduction of enforceable undertakings as an additional compliance and enforcement option
  • a simplified contaminated land framework that requires auditor certification of contaminated land investigation documents
  • a streamlined process for the payment of fees for amendment applications for environmental authorities.

Some provisions automatically commenced on 8 November 2016. This includes the following amendments:

  • standard and variation applications for an environmental authority for activities carried out as part of a coordinated project
  • a streamlined process for the application and assessment process for coordinated projects that have completed the environmental impact statement process under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971
  • end of waste codes and approvals.

Major amendments

This section includes information about the major amendments in the EPOLA Act. For more detail about these amendments, or any other amendments in the EPOLA Act, please view the explanatory notes (PDF) for the Bill.

Penalty increases

The EPOLA Act 2014 amended the EP Act to increase the maximum penalties for the most serious offences to the same maximum penalties stated in the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014. The new maximum monetary penalty of 6250 penalty units ($736,250 as at 1 July 2015) provides for an improved correlation between similar offences within other Queensland legislation and other state jurisdictions.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is an area of global significance, but it is now formally recognised as an area of ‘special significance’ under the EP Act. Unlawfully causing harm to an area of ‘special significance’ falls within the definition of ‘serious environmental harm’ and places harm to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area amongst the most serious offences under the EP Act.

Contaminated land

The EPOLA Act 2014 amends the EP Act to improve the efficiency of the development approval process for contaminated land sites through the use of approved auditors.

These amendments complement changes already made to the development assessment requirements for planning approvals, providing an integrated package of reforms for contaminated land assessment for the construction sector.

A Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement on Technical Services for Contaminated Land (PDF, 226K), was publically released for consultation in April 2014. A full analysis of the submissions received and the department’s response is contained in the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (PDF, 292K).

Enforceable undertakings

The EPOLA Act 2014 introduces enforceable undertakings into the EP Act. Enforceable undertakings provide for a flexible and cost effective enforcement alternative where this may enable a better overall regulatory outcome.

Enforceable undertakings are binding agreements between the administering authority and an alleged offender, which require the person to take specified actions to “make good” on identified non-compliance. They provide for flexible, responsive, cost effective and tailored ways of achieving compliance.

End of waste framework

The EPOLA Act 2014 replaces the existing beneficial use approval approach in the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 with ‘end of waste codes and approvals’. This will help meet the objective of increased ‘resource productivity’ set out in the Queensland's waste and recycling strategy.

Small scale mining reforms

In 2013 the Mining and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013 amended the EP Act to de-regulate small scale mining activities. De-regulation was supported by prescribed environmental conditions set out in the Environmental Protection Amendment Regulation (No. 2) 2013.

For more information on the small scale mining reforms please see the business and industry portal.

The Greentape Reduction project

On 31 March 2013 amendments to the EP Act (contained in the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2012) and to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 (EP Reg) (contained in the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation (No. 1) 2013 came into force.

The following documents guided development of the project:

Available from the library catalogue

The documents referred to on this page are available from the department’s online library catalogue.

* Requires Microsoft Office files viewer

Last updated
22 March 2018