Hierarchy of legislation and guidance

The hierarchy of EPA's environmental legislation and guidance: Acts; SEPPS, WMPs, Regulations and NCOs; EPA guidance.

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’s primary Act is the Environment Protection Act 1970 (‘EP Act’; Word 1.8MB, Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents). Guide to the Environment Protection Act gives a brief overview.

We also jointly administer the Pollution of Waters by Oils and Noxious Substances Act 1986 (‘POWBONS Act’; PDF 1.9MB, Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents).

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

SEPPs, WMPs, Regulations and NCOs

Instrument Explanation
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

Document Explanation
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

Other EPA documents

Document Explanation
EPA policies
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).

Page last updated on 25 Jan 2018