One of the main reasons for getting an environmental audit or preliminary risk screen assessment (PRSA)  is to comply with local government planning system requirements.

About environmental audits, preliminary risk screen assessments and planning decisions

The type of environmental assessment for a planning scheme amendment or permit depends on the land’s:

  • proposed use  
  • potential for contamination.  

Planning authorities enforce the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and under this the Ministerial Direction No.1 – Potentially Contaminated Land for planning scheme amendments. This requires planning authorities to ensure potentially contaminated land is suitable for proposed changes to planning schemes in some circumstances.

When the proposed use of potentially contaminated land is sensitive, or a secondary school or children’s playground, planning authorities must ask for an environmental audit or PRSA. Sensitive land uses include:

  • residential
  • childcare centres
  • pre-schools
  • primary schools.

When assessing planning permit applications, planning authorities may make decisions based on the outcome of environmental audits. Usually audits that consider the suitability of land for the proposed use, or PRSAs.

The outcome of the environmental audit will be an environmental audit statement. The statement may contain recommendations that need to be complied with in order for the land to be suitable for the proposed use.

It’s the environmental auditor’s responsibility to provide a copy of the PRSA statement and report, or environmental audit statement and report to:

  • EPA
  • the party requesting the audit (usually the site owner)
  • the relevant planning and responsible authority.

How audit statement outcomes can affect planning decisions

An environmental audit statement will outline any risks relating to the site and recommendations to manage the risks. An owner or occupier must use the site in a way that’s consistent with the statement.

The planning or responsible authority that’s requested the audit may need to consider the need for further planning requirements. This is so any recommendations that may be contained in the statement can be fulfilled. For example, to reflect the statement conditions in a planning permit.

Recommendations that relate to long-term management of contamination during ongoing occupation of the land may be managed by being incorporated, where appropriate, into tools available under the Environment Protection Act 2017.

How environmental audit overlays work

A planning authority can apply an environmental audit overlay (EAO) to a site under the Victoria Planning Provisions. It shows that a site is potentially contaminated. If the site is proposed to be used for sensitive use, secondary school or children’s playground, an environmental audit or a PRSA which finds that an audit is not required will need to be undertaken.

An EAO doesn’t prevent an assessment and approval of a planning scheme amendment. Removal of an EAO occurs when land is found not to be potentially contaminated land.

For more information see Planning practice note: Potentially contaminated land, by selecting ‘hazards’ on the Planning.vic website.

About government oversight and review of site assessments

Local government often requests site assessments. You would engage an environmental consultant to perform these. EPA doesn’t regulate site assessments and EPA-appointed auditors don’t provide oversight of these assessments.

Read next

Environmental audit system

Environmental audits

EPA's role in the environmental audit system

About environmental auditors

Choosing an environmental auditor

Appointment of environmental auditors 

Preliminary risk screen assessments

Find preliminary risk screen assessments and environmental audit reports

Find an environmental auditor

Reviewed 20 September 2021