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An environmental audit provides advice on either the suitability of site uses or risks and recommendations. 

EPA-appointed environmental auditors perform audits. The auditors give an independent assessment of site conditions and risks. Risks can include harm from contaminated land, waste or pollution. Risk of harm can also involve other activities. 

The following can initiate an environmental audit:

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

When you need an environmental audit

Reasons for getting an environmental audit include: 

  • planning system requirements – to satisfy councils that your land is safe for the proposed use 
  • EPA site notice – to prove to EPA you’ve cleaned up your site  
  • EPA site licence – to prove you’ve met your licence requirements  
  • voluntary – to prove your land is safe for current use. Or to assess any potential risk to human health and environment from industrial activities 
  • due diligence – to assess land contamination conditions for your decision making. 

What audits can demonstrate

An audit can demonstrate:  

  • the cleanup of contaminated land or groundwater to a satisfactory level 
  • the construction and operation of landfills complies with EPA requirements  
  • compliance with a permission condition or remedial notice 
  • the proposed development within a landfill buffer zone is adequate under a planning permit application.  

Types of environmental audits

There are two types of environmental audits under the Environment Protection Act 1970

  • 53X environmental audits 
  • 53V environmental audits. 

About 53X environmental audits

Planning authorities commonly use a 53X environmental audit to assess a proposal involving a new use of potentially contaminated land. An environmental audit overlay (EAO) may also need an audit. 

The auditor must provide a copy of the final report and a certificate or statement of environmental audit to: 

  • the party requesting the audit, usually the site owner 
  • EPA 
  • relevant local government bodies.  

About 53V environmental audits

A 53V environmental audit helps in understanding environmental risks from: 

  • an industrial process or activity 
  • contamination 
  • waste 
  • noise.  

Find out more about environmental audits under the Environment Protection Act 1970

Changes to audits under the Environment Protection Act 2017

New laws are intended to come into effect on 1 July 2021. The Environment Protection Act 2017 combines 53X and 53V audits into a single type – the scoped environmental audit. Before an audit can start, it must be scoped. The purpose of the 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 any 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.

Find out more about the changes to audits under the new laws

How long an environmental audit takes

The auditing process can range from a few months to several years. It depends on the level of investigation required, the nature and extent of contamination or other environmental risks. Auditors can normally suggest how long the process will take based on what they know about the site.  

About ending audits

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

Read next

Environmental auditing 

Types of environmental audits under the Environment Protection Act 1970

EPA's role in environmental auditing

About environmental auditors

Choosing an environmental auditor

Appointment of environmental auditors

Environmental audits and the planning system

Environmental audits under the new laws

Preliminary risk screen assessments

Find an environmental audit report

Find an environmental auditor

Reviewed 17 July 2020