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This page provides a snapshot of the different instruments and documents in our legal framework – including how they are used and how they relate to each other.

EPA uses three tiers of legal instruments and guidance to protect the environment:

  • Acts.
  • SEPPs, WMPs, Regulations and NCOs.
  • EPA guidance.


EPA’s primary Act is the Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act).

We jointly administer the Pollution of Waters by Oils and Noxious Substances Act 1986 (POWBONS Act).

We administer the National Environment Protection Council (Victoria) Act 1995.

Read more about the Acts EPA administers.

Legislative reform

In response to the Independent Inquiry into the EPA, the Government indicated there would be two phases of legislative reform to overhaul the Environment Protection Act 1970.

The first was the passing of the Environment Protection Act 2017 (the 2017 Act). The 2017 Act establishes EPA as an independent statutory authority, and legislates the role of the Governing Board, the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Environmental Scientist.

Completing the legislative overhaul is the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (the Amendment Act), which was passed by Parliament and received Royal Assent in August 2018.

The amended 2017 Act to commenced on 1 July 2021.

Read more on EPA's legislative reform.

SEPPs, WMPs, Regulations and NCOs

State environment protection policies (SEPPs)

  • Define the uses and environmental values to be protected in Victoria and the environmental quality objectives needed to protect these beneficial uses.
  • Are enforced indirectly via notices, and via licence and works approval conditions.
  • Are established under section 16 of the EP Act, with consultation requirements defined in section 18A.

Waste management policies (WMPs)

  • Set statewide objectives and directions for waste management.
  • Are enforced indirectly via notices, and via licence and works approval conditions.
  • Are enforced, for industrial waste, directly under section 27A of the EP Act.
  • Are established under section 16A of the EP Act, with consultation requirements defined in section 18A.


  • Prescribe details (requirements, processes, forms, fees etc).
  • May be directly enforceable (with defined penalties).
  • Are made under section 71 of the EP Act and section 30 of the POWBONS Act, with consultation requirements under the Subordinate Legislation Act 1994.

Notifiable chemical orders (NCOs)

  • Are made when it is necessary to prevent or abate a serious environmental hazard from one or more chemicals.
  • Are made under section 30D of the EP Act.

EPA guidance

Practice guidance

EPA publishes a range of ‘third-level’ documents that provide guidance and/or set out obligations (particularly for industry) in more detail. These currently include:

  • best practice environmental management (BPEM) publications
  • codes of practice
  • guidelines and guidance
  • guidelines for environmental management (GEMs)
  • information bulletins and information sheets
  • protocols for environmental management (PEMs).

Some of these documents are referred to in SEPPs, WMPs and Regulations.

EPA licence conditions and works approval conditions also require industry to comply with some of these documents.

To provide greater clarity, EPA will be:

  • gradually reducing the different types of guidance that it has – to ‘protocols’, ‘guidelines’ or ‘EPA positions’
  • including a clear statement in each document (when it is next reviewed) about its purpose and legal status.

Process guidance

EPA publishes guidance for industry on how to lodge an application or fulfil reporting obligations.

Examples include EPA’s Works approval application guideline (publication 1658) and Annual performance statement guidelines (publication 1320).

Other EPA documents

EPA policies

These documents set out how EPA intends to approach its work. They explain the principles that the approach is based on.

Examples include EPA’s Compliance and enforcement policy (publication 1388) and Remedial notices policy (publication 1418).

EPA positions

EPA will be publishing statements on how it will act in particular situations when the Act provides EPA with some discretion.

EPA reports

Reporting on the findings of EPA’s scientific studies, monitoring and assessment work, etc.

EPA information

Information on a topic for the broader community, such as EPA’s Noise fact sheet (publication 1467).

Reviewed 2 July 2021