Policy and legislation changes

    This page provides information on updates to the policy and legislative framework for the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act).

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    Commencement of 2019 Environmental Protection Regulation and Environmental Protection Policies

    On 1 September 2019, the following subordinate legislation commences:

    This legislation replaces the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008, Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2008, Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2008, and Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 2009, which expires on 1 September 2019.

    The new legislation does not contain any significant policy changes from the expired legislation. The department completed a review of the expired legislation which identified the need for amendments to clarify the policy intent of some provisions, remove inconsistencies and errors, update references to other documents and legislation to ensure currency, and reflect contemporary drafting practices.

    For further information about the new legislation, please refer to the explanatory notes:

    Review of Queensland's Environmental Chain of Responsibility laws

    In 2018, the department completed its review of specific provisions of the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016 (the Act).

    The Act commenced on 27 April 2016. It introduced new provisions to enable environmental protection orders to be issued to ‘related persons’. These provisions provide the Queensland Government with additional tools to ensure that companies and associated parties meet their environmental responsibilities.

    In accordance with the Act, a review of the operation of these provisions was undertaken to determine whether the provisions remain appropriate. 

    Final report

    On 26 October 2018, the Honourable Leeanne Enoch MP, Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts, tabled a final report about the outcome of the review—Review of Queensland's Environmental Chain of Responsibility laws—in the Queensland Parliament.

    In finalising the report, the department considered all of the submissions made during the public consultation on the draft report, the Draft review of Queensland’s Environmental Chain of Responsibility laws (PDF, 456.6KB) .

    Transhipping Policy 2018

    In August 2018, a new Transhipping Policy was announced by the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government’s Transhipping Policy ensures that the Great Barrier Reef and the environmental values of the state’s marine environment are protected from transhipping operations.

    Transhipping, the operation of transferring materials from one vessel to another, poses environmental risks to all marine environments. However, the ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef are already under pressure from factors such as catchment water quality, a changing climate, and port and shipping activities.

    Under the policy, transhipping of bulk materials will not be permitted where it occurs partly or wholly within the waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In other marine areas, it will be regulated as an environmentally relevant activity (ERA) under the EP Act.

    Bulk materials are those materials, other than water, that when loaded on a vessel conform to the shape of the compartment of the vessel, such as grain, coal, oil and mineral sands, and do not include packaged or containerised materials.

    The policy covers transhipping activities that involve vessel-to-vessel transfers of bulk materials at a rate of more than 100 tonnes per day and any associated land-based operations.

    It does not apply to activities for the supply of essential services to remote communities or to:

    • refuelling activities, which are subject to existing regulation
    • marine emergency response activities managed by Maritime Safety Queensland or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
    • movement of cargo from one vessel to another while docked in a port.

    The assessment of the transhipping ERA will be through a site-specific application process in accordance with the EP Act.

    Existing activities will be provided a 12-month period from commencement of the ERA to transition to the new policy arrangements.

    Operators who are granted approval of an ERA for a transhipping activity will still be required to comply with other necessary environmental approvals under state or Commonwealth legislation.

    Previous changes

    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 amended 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.

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

    The 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 amended the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act 2011 to provide for the substantive phase out of mining on North Stradbroke Island by 2019.

    The Act also made 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 was also amended to provide a power to grant a new type of rehabilitation authorisation. The authorisation enables 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 amended the EP Act to enhance environmental protections and give 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:
      • significantly financially benefit from the activity or
      • 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 amended 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.

    Available from the library catalogue

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