As the new Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (the Act) rolls out, new laws will gradually come into effect, while some existing practices will change.
The new Act introduces third-party rights
If you’ve been adversely affected by a person or company not complying with the law, EPA may be able to act on your behalf.
If the courts believe EPA has not acted where it should have, in a reasonable time after getting written notice, the new Act gives you greater rights to defend your interests. These are called third-party rights. It means that the court may allow you to make an application to the court yourself. If you’re successful in court, the court can order EPA to act within the scope of its powers.
Third-party rights, or civil remedies, are an important addition to the new Act and will bring Victoria into line with the rest of Australia. They’ll give broader access to justice to the general community.
How third-party rights work
The court can allow a person to make a third-party application at its discretion, if it believes that EPA hasn’t acted, within a reasonable timeframe, after being asked to do so in writing. The court can also allow people who haven’t been adversely affected personally, to make an application. This only applies if the court believes it’s in the public interest.
This part of the Act starts on 1 July 2021, one year after the rest of the Act. This is to allow the justice system time to prepare to meet the needs of the community.
In the Act, material harm means harm that is caused by pollution or waste that:
- has an adverse effect on human health or the environment that is not insignificant
- has an adverse effect on an area of high conservation value or of special significance
- results in, or is likely to result in, greater costs than what would have been incurred if action been taken to prevent or minimise the harm in the first place.
The new approach is focussed on preventing harm from occurring, by eliminating or minimising risk.
Licences will still exist under the new Act. Licences issued under the old Act will continue until they're surrendered, amended or revoked. This only applies if the new Act still requires the activity to have a licence.
We’ll work with licence holders to update their licences.
What’s staying the same
Audits and auditors
When the new Act begins, any auditor appointed under section 35 of the old Act will still be considered an appointed auditor. The same terms will apply under the new Act.
Read more about complying with the new laws
Reviewed 28 October 2019