Environmental Law

Environmental law focuses on the resolution of disputes or competing interests regarding the use of natural and developed land. Environmental impact may be relevant at the development or preservation stages and can involve many issues. We help clients deal with a range of matters in this complex area of law, including:

  • Advising on the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 including clean-up notices, prevention notices, pollution offences and offensive noise
  • Responding to and advising in relation to regulatory investigations by local councils and government authorities
  • Waste offences
  • Contaminated land management
  • Prosecutions for environmental offences, including representation in the Local Court and Land & Environment Court
  • Class 4 proceedings in the Land & Environment Court
  • Advising on the impact of environmental laws on property development

How does environmental law impact property development?

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 play a critical role in governing the environmental impact of development in New South Wales. Various other state and Commonwealth laws are also relevant in addressing environmental concerns.

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act sets out processes to ensure that natural and environmental impact is a consideration in decisions regarding land and resource use. Both natural and developed land are relevant.

To obtain development consent, the likely environmental impact of the proposed development must be assessed and addressed. The greater the risk to the environment, the more rigorous the requirements. This can be a complex process and requires a tailored approach to ensure that support documents adequately address the environmental issues unique to your development. Developers may have a right of appeal for certain decisions made by consent authorities.

We can provide comprehensive advice on the environmental impact assessment requirements specific to your development application and, if necessary, represent you in the Land and Environment Court.

Pollution regulation

The regulatory functions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act are generally overseen by the Environmental Protection Authority and local councils. The Act enables public bodies to make policies to guide decisions that impact the environment, and deals with air, water and other pollution, noise, regulation of waste, and other environmental offences.

The Act also sets out a schedule of activities that require a pollution licence. Developments that require consent as well as a pollution licence are known as integrated development.

Environment Protection Notices

Pursuant to the Act, a government body may issue a person or corporation with a:

  • clean-up notice directing the respondent to deal with a spill or the unlawful disposal of waste;
  • prevention notice requiring certain action to be taken to improve environmental outcomes;
  • prohibition notice requiring a specified activity to cease.

Noise and nuisance

Air and noise pollution coming from non-scheduled activities is controlled by council. Noise control notices may be issued by a local council with respect to an ‘offensive noise’ requiring the person responsible to cease causing that noise. An ‘offensive noise’ is defined as ‘likely to be harmful to a person outside the premises or to interfere with their comfort or repose’. The notice may prevent or restrict certain activities where noise is in excess of a satisfactory level. If the noise pollution does not cease, an application may be made to the Local Court for a Noise Abatement Order.

Water pollution

Activities are considered ‘pollution’ if they cause ‘a change in the physical, chemical or biological condition of water’. Licensing is required for certain water-polluting activities such as aquaculture. Water pollution is a strict liability offence however the ‘polluting’ activity may be defended if it complies with a licence or controlled process prescribed by regulation.

Our core focus on planning law, local government, and environmental law enables us to provide specialist, cost-effective solutions for legal issues falling within these areas. We provide tailored advice and strong advocacy for a range of environmental law matters.

If you need assistance, contact [email protected] or call 0409 007 794 for expert legal advice.