Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) welcomes the new Environment Protection Act 2017 (Act), which comes into force today.

The new Act completes the legislative overhaul of EPA Victoria and gives Victoria stronger, more modern environment protection laws. 

Preventing environmental harm and protecting human health is at the core of this Act. It empowers EPA with:

a range of new measures to actively prevent pollution, improving Victoria’s environment and our health and wellbeing; and
stronger powers and the ability to issue tougher penalties for environmental offences.

In an Australian first, the Act also establishes a general environmental duty that is criminally enforceable. This requires people conducting activities that pose risks to human health and the environment from pollution and waste to understand those risks and take reasonable steps to eliminate or minimise them.

EPA is committed to the successful implementation of the new Act and has established programs to:

Help community and business understand the general environmental duty (to prevent risk or harm) and other changes in the legislation;
Provide tailored advice to stakeholders about ways to meet their obligations and manage risks to the environment and human health; and
Provide timely and accessible information about EPA's regulatory approach under the new legislation.

This is a major change in the way we protect the environment – it requires businesses to be proactive in identifying and implementing practicable risk management measures to reduce the impacts of pollution and waste. It also empowers EPA to support businesses to prevent harm, rather than being solely reliant upon remedial measures after environmental damage has occurred.

Businesses across Victoria are encouraged to visit epa.vic.gov.au to understand what that means for their industry.

To better reflect the seriousness of environmental offences, the Act also substantially increases the maximum applicable penalties. This includes:

Doubling the maximum penalty for corporations that commit the most serious breaches to 20,000 penalty units ($3.6 million);
Doubling the maximum penalty for corporations that commit illegal dumping to 10,000 penalty units ($1.8 million); and
Increasing the maximum penalty for individuals breaching the law by 50% to 4,000 penalty units ($0.7 million).

QUOTES ATTRIBUTABLE TO LEE MIEZIS, CEO, EPA

“Victoria’s environment is an irreplaceable, vital asset. As of today, every Victorian will play their part in preventing harm caused by pollution and waste. “

“This is the biggest change in 50 years to Victoria’s environment protection laws, it focuses on a General Environmental Duty (GED) which simply states that all Victorians have a responsibility to help to protect our environment.’’

“These new powers will not only protect the environment, but they will also protect people’s health by cracking down on pollution and preventing the mishandling of toxic material.”

 

BACKGROUND:

The new Act follows a Victorian Government-commissioned public inquiry into EPA, which was completed over 10 months by an independent Ministerial Advisory Committee.

The Government response to the Independent Inquiry into EPA recommended strongly that environment protection regulation in Victoria needs to shift focus towards prevention of harm, rather than responding to pollution after it has occurred.

The Government allocated $182.4 million to ensure its response to the Independent Inquiry could be effectively implemented.

The Environment Protection Act 1970 still applies to any conduct that occurred prior to 1 July 2021.

 

Reviewed 1 July 2021