Compliance and enforcement

    As the Queensland Government’s environmental regulator the department manages and monitors environmental risk through a range of assessment, compliance, investigation and enforcement activities.

    To ensure compliance with legislation, the department:

    • educates individuals, industry and governments about the laws and how to comply with them
    • encourages voluntary compliance with obligations
    • monitors compliance
    • rewards good performers
    • responds to breaches of the legislation with consistent and proportionate enforcement action.

    To help build a culture of improved voluntary compliance within industry and improve compliance practices the department and has published guidance material and supporting information to help industry understand how to meet its environmental obligations and achieve good environmental practices.

    Compliance planning and priorities

    All licensed environmentally relevant activities in Queensland have had their risks assessed and expected standards of controls put in place through the enforceable conditions of environmental authorities.

    It is the responsibility of the licence holder to comply with the strong environmental standards and obligations required by law and, where a potential environmental risk has been identified, to have appropriate and effective control measures in place to minimise the potential for environmental harm. For example, a tank storing a hazardous chemical has a risk of leaking that can be controlled by maintaining a secondary containment system to capture the chemical in the event of a leak occurring.

    The department’s compliance program targets those activities that pose the greatest potential risk to Queensland’s environment and communities. Monitoring licensed operators through regular proactive and reactive compliance activities helps identify breaches and areas of poor performance.

    The department also targets unlicensed activities that can pose risks to environment and communities that have not been assessed and controlled, such as illegal tyre storages that can be fire and pollution risks. Fortunately, most Queensland businesses seek to do the right thing. For those that don’t the department uses a variety of community, industry and technology-based intelligence sources to identify illegal operations and target them for compliance and enforcement.

    Our compliance planning

    Our compliance planning is based on:

    • Annual Strategic Compliance Priorities – provide a targeted and transparent approach to compliance where there is a focus on reducing risks to the environment and advise regulated operators about what to expect. Our Annual strategic compliance priorities 2022–2023 (PDF, 253.0KB) included waste, petroleum and gas and the Great Barrier Reef.
    • Prioritised Targeted Compliance Programs—identify and manage issues that pose significant environmental risk.
    • Prioritised Unplanned Compliance Events—response to community reports, emerging intelligence and events that have a significant or immediate risk.
    • Compliance Prioritisation Model—identifies possible risk for all locations in Queensland that are licensed to carry out environmentally relevant activities under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
    • Regional compliance plans—Queensland is a large state and within it there are different community, industry and environmental drivers that can influence regional compliance plans. For example, the north Queensland wet season is typically more significant than in southern parts of the state. Regional compliance planning undertaken in each of our four compliance regions (North, Central, Southeast and Southwest) ensures that local priority risks are accounted for.

    The department’s previous Annual Strategic Compliance Priorities can be viewed at:

    Enforcement action

    The department has set clear expectations about acceptable standards of environmental performance and takes prompt, strong enforcement action against those operators who choose not to comply with their obligations to demonstrate the consequences for poor performance.

    The following guidelines govern how the department makes decisions about appropriate enforcement action.

    Enforcement guidelines

    • Enforcement guidelines
      The department’s Enforcement guidelines (PDF, 360.6KB) ensure its enforcement responses:
      • are proportionate to the conduct
      • are consistent with past responses for similar conduct
      • occur in a timely fashion.
    • Powers of authorised officers
      One way the department achieves compliance with the Acts it administers is through targeted, risk-based inspections conducted by authorised persons of sites impacting on or posing a risk to the environment.
      The Powers of authorised persons guideline—ESR/2016/2276 (PDF, 240.7KB) provides an overview of the roles, powers and activities of the department’s authorised officers under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
    • Overt and Covert recording policy
      Inspections and investigations are undertaken in accordance with legislative requirements. During the course of an inspection or investigation authorised officers may use equipment to measure things like noise, water samples, and may also use drones (RPAS), and audio-visual devices to record inspections.
    • The Overt and Covert recording fact sheet (ESR/2023/6387) (PDF, 171.9KB) provides an overview of when departmental officers will use recording devices.

    • For more information about compliance tools that are used by the department visit compliance guidelines.

    Penalty infringement notices

    Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) can be issued for a wide range of offences relating to environmental matters—which are prescribed in the State Penalties Enforcement Regulation 2014.

    Visit the Queensland Government website for further information on penalty infringement notices (environment and heritage matters) including: paying a fine, voluntary instalment plans, unpaid PINs, disputing an offence, making a statutory declaration, electing to have a matter heard in court, or requesting a review of a littering or illegal dumping PIN.

    Outcomes of compliance activities

    The department regularly publishes information to help inform and educate operators and the community about its compliance and enforcement activities.

    • Prosecution bulletins
      Prosecution bulletins summarise the facts and outcomes of prosecutions finalised by the department.
    • Compliance and Enforcement activities for the Coal Seam Gas Industry
      The department regulates Coal Seam Gas (CSG) activities to avoid and/or minimise environmental impacts. Compliance and enforcement activities undertaken by the department last financial year are detailed in the 2020–2021 CSG Compliance and Enforcement Report (PDF, 1.3MB) .