Policy and legislation changes
This page provides information on updates to the policy and legislative framework for the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act).
Subscribe to the Environmental Regulatory Update to stay informed.
Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023
The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023 (the EPOLA Act 2023) commenced on 5 April 2023.
The EPOLA Act 2023 improves administrative efficiency and ensures the regulatory frameworks within the Environment portfolio remain contemporary, effective and responsive.
Notable amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1994 include:
- resolving implementation issues with the estimated rehabilitation cost (ERC) and progressive rehabilitation and closure planning (PRCP) frameworks
- enhancing the environmental impact statement (EIS) process
- requiring public notification for all major amendments to environmental authorities for resource activities, and
- enhancing executive officer liability provisions.
The EPOLA Act 2023 also:
- amends the Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993 in response to a review of the Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998
- made minor, technical refinements related to administrative processes and interpretation to the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 and Land Title Act 1994.
For more information please visit the Queensland Legislation website to access the EPOLA Act 2023 and explanatory notes.
Environmental Protection (Transhipping Activities) Amendment Regulation 2020
The Environmental Protection (Transhipping Activities) Amendment Regulation 2020 (Transhipping Regulation) commenced on 25 September 2020. It gives full legislative effect to the Queensland Government’s Transhipping Policy, which was announced in August 2018 (see details below).
The Transhipping Regulation gives legislative effect to the transhipping policy by:
- clearly prescribing transhipping as an environmentally relevant activity (ERA)
- inserting a ‘refusal provision’ for environmental authority applications for transhipping within particular areas of the Great Barrier Reef.
The amendments make it clear that an environmental authority is required to tranship in Queensland waters. Under the amendments, transhipping of bulk materials will not be permitted where it occurs:
- partly or wholly within the waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
- outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, unless within port boundaries.
The Transhipping Regulation also makes other amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019 to clarify and improve existing provisions related to the regulation of mineral and bulk material handling (ERA 50). This includes amending the definitions of ‘bulk material’ and ‘mineral’ in ERA 50 and removing a duplication of regulation for the storage of chemicals in connection with operations at a port.
For more information see Frequently Asked Questions .
Environmental Protection Amendment Regulation (No. 1) 2020
The Environmental Protection Amendment Regulation (No. 1) 2020 (Amendment Regulation) makes administrative amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019 (EP Regulation). It commenced on 25 September 2020.
Most environmental authority holders are required, when requested by the department, to provide an annual return by 1 March immediately following the year to which the return relates. Industry stakeholders have raised concerns about completing annual returns by 1 March and requested a change to the due date to enable more time to meet the legislative requirement. The Amendment Regulation prescribes a new annual return date of 1 April to address these concerns.
The Amendment Regulation ensures a fee applies to an application for a decision about whether an environmental impact statement (EIS) may be required for a project and, if applicable, for approval to prepare an EIS for the project if the chief executive decides an EIS would not be required for the project. This new application was inserted into the EP Act by the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020. The fee prescribed is the same as for the existing application for approval to voluntarily prepare an EIS as these applications are similar.
The Amendment Regulation also corrects a drafting error in Schedule 10 of the EP Regulation. The amendment ensures regulated wastes are included as prescribed water contaminants, achieving the original policy intent from the 2019 remake of the EP Regulation.
Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020
The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 (the EPOLA Act 2020) commenced on 20 August 2020. The EPOLA Act 2020 is part of the Queensland Government’s ongoing commitment to improve rehabilitation and financial assurance outcomes for the state’s resources industry.
These reforms will ensure that Queensland has evidence-based, best practice, world-leading rehabilitation practices that will deliver better economic and environmental outcomes.
The EPOLA Act 2020:
- Enables the appointment of a Rehabilitation Commissioner, to provide rigorous, scientific and independent advice to both government and industry. The Rehabilitation Commissioner will also monitor and provide reports on rehabilitation performance and trends. This will enable evaluation of the rehabilitation framework in Queensland.
- Amends the existing residual risk framework to ensure that any risks remaining on a resource site after a project is completed are appropriately identified, costed and managed.
- Establishes a residual risks fund and provides for payments to this fund to be managed by the Scheme Manager, the same entity that manages the Financial Provisioning Scheme. This will ensure the appropriate financial management of residual risk payments in a way that will enhance investment opportunities to grow the fund.
The EPOLA Act 2020 also made minor and technical amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to remove unnecessary provisions and clarify and improve regulatory processes.
Commencement of 2019 Environmental Protection Regulation and Environmental Protection Policies
On 1 September 2019, the following subordinate legislation commenced:
- Environmental Protection Regulation 2019
- Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2019
- Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2019
- Environmental Protection (Water and Wetland Biodiversity) Policy 2019.
This legislation replaced the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008, Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2008, Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2008, and Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 2009, which expired 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:
- explanatory notes for the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019
- explanatory notes for the Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2019
- explanatory notes for the Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2019
- explanatory notes for the Environmental Protection (Water and Wetland Biodiversity) Policy 2019.
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 Chain of Responsibility Act).
The Chain of Responsibility 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 Chain of Responsibility Act, a review of the operation of these provisions was undertaken to determine whether the provisions remain appropriate.
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 .
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.
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.
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 Chain of Responsibility Act) commenced on 27 April 2016.
The Chain of Responsibility 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 Chain of Responsibility 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.
While the Chain of Responsibility 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 Chain of Responsibility Act broadens the range of persons and companies who may be issued with an environmental protection order by the department.
The Chain of Responsibility 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.
A ‘related person’ is:
- a holding company of the company carrying out the activity
- for non-resource activities - a person or company that owns land on which the company carries out, or has carried out the activity
- 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
- 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 Chain of Responsibility 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 Chain of Responsibility 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 Chain of Responsibility 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.
The Chain of Responsibility 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.
Available from the library catalogue
The documents referred to on this page are available from the department’s online library catalogue.