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An environmental audit assesses the risks of harm to human health or the environment. It may assess the suitability of site uses.

The purpose of an environmental audit is to:

  • assess the nature and extent of the risk of harm to human health or the environment. This may be from contaminated land, waste, pollution or an activity.
  • recommend measures to manage the risk of harm to human health or the environment
  • make recommendations to manage the contaminated land, waste, pollution or activity.

EPA-appointed environmental auditors perform environmental audits. The auditors perform an independent assessment of site conditions and risks.

Anyone can initiate an environmental audit, including the following entities :

  • EPA 
  • local councils 
  • landowners or occupants
  • planning authorities 
  • community members. 

This EPA publication presents a step-by-step guide to the suitability of land use audit process.

When you need an environmental audit

Reasons for getting an environmental audit include:

  • Planning system requirements – To satisfy the planning decision maker that your land is safe for an ongoing or proposed use. Or, to consider risks for developments proposed within the buffer of a  landfill.
  • EPA remedial notice or order – To show to EPA that you have cleaned up your site or addressed risks identified.
  • EPA operating licence – To show that you have met your licence conditions.
  • Voluntary – To demonstrate your land is safe for an ongoing or proposed use. Or, to assess any potential risk to human health or the environment from activities.
  • Due diligence – To assess for contaminated land to assist your decision making. For example, when purchasing property. 

What environmental audits can do

An environmental audit can:  

  • confirm the suitability of a site for a ongoing or proposed use
  • show that contaminated land has been cleaned up to a satisfactory level
  • show that the construction and operation of landfills complies with EPA requirements  
  • show compliance with a permission condition or remedial notice or order.

Scoping an environmental audit

All audits must be scoped by an environmental auditor. This means they can define the scope of what’s considered in the audit. This may depend on the audit’s purpose. Environmental auditors must submit the proposed scope to EPA. They must do this before starting the environmental audit. At a minimum, the scope must include:

  • the identity of the site or activity the environmental audit covers
  • the elements of the environment being assessed, such as land, water, air and noise
  • consideration of the standards and reference documents in the environmental audit
  • any exclusion from the environmental audit and the reason for the exclusion
  • identify the current or proposed site use (for suitability of land use audits).

The scope must be submitted to EPA using the Proposed scope of environmental audit form.

Find out more about environmental audits

Learn more about environmental audits by choosing from the following topics.

  • Outcomes of an audit

    The environmental auditor must prepare the following, once the audit is complete:

    1. Environmental audit statement.
    2.  Environmental audit report.

    Environmental audit statements

    An environmental audit statement must include:

    • all the matters set out in the environmental audit scope
    • the use or proposed use of a site if part of the environmental audit scope
    • any assumptions the environmental auditor makes during the environmental audit
    • any limitations on the environmental audit
    • any additional considerations of the standards and reference used in the environmental audit
    • any further exclusions from the environmental  audit, and the reason for these exclusions
    • the results of the environmental audit and any recommendations
    • the name of the person requesting the environmental auditor’s services
    • the environmental auditor’s signature and contact details.

    A statement on the site suitability must be prepared for a suitability of land use audit. The environmental auditor will choose one of the following three statements:

    • The site is suitable for the purposes specified in the statement.
    • The site is suitable for the purposes specified in the statement if the recommendations made in the statement are complied with.
    • The site is not suitable for the purposes specified in the statement at the time the statement was prepared.

    All environmental audit statements will outline any risks relating to the site. They will also provide recommendations to manage the risks. An owner or occupier is responsible for the use of the site in a way that’s consistent with the statement that has been issued.

    An owner and occupier has a duty to manage potential risks by implementing the auditors recommendations.

    Environmental audit reports

    The environmental audit report must include:

    • a review of all relevant information collected during the environmental audit 
    • the reasons for the findings and any recommendations in the environmental audit statement.
  • How long an environmental audit takes

    An environmental audit can take from a few months to several years. Environmental audits for complex contaminated land are often the longest. The duration depends on the purpose of the environmental audit. I also depends on the level of assessment required to assess the risk of harm.

    An environmental audit reflects the condition of the site, or status of the activity. It applies at the issue date of the environmental audit report and statement. 

    Anyone relying on an environmental audit report should satisfy themselves that the site conditions or activity have not changed significantly.

  • Obligation to provide environmental audit statement

    The environmental audit statement must be provided when a site has new occupiers or is sold. 
  • Ending an environmental audit

    An environmental auditor should notify EPA when there’s a decision not to proceed with an environmental audit. We may ask for further information from the environmental auditor, or any other person, about the site’s condition. We may also require clean-up or other management of the site, through issuing a remedial notice or order.

  • Transition of environmental audits

    Some environmental audits started under the Environment Protection Act 1970. These can be moved to the new system if they are not yet complete, but it is not essential. 

    There is no fixed period to complete these environmental audits.

    Refer to Transition guidance for environmental auditors (publication 1978) for more information.

  • Environmental audits and contaminated land

    EPA is the main regulator of contaminated land (Environment Protection Act 2017). You may have duties if you are in management or control of contaminated land.

    They include duty to manage contaminated land and the duty to notify of contamination.

  • Environmental audit resources

Reviewed 3 July 2023