The subordinate legislation – the Environment Protection Regulations and Environment Reference Standard – has been made by the Governor in Council and came into effect on 1 July 2021 with the Act.

Operating licences are for complex high-risk industrial and waste activities that are ongoing.

When you need an operating licence

At the end of your development licence commissioning phase you will need to apply for an operating licence. This licence will expire after 20 years. An exception to this is landfill activities, which can have a term of up to 99 years.

You also need an operating licence if you are currently operating an activity that has become a prescribed activity. With the Act now in force, a temporary exemption period applies. You will need to apply for an operating licence by the end of the exemption period.

Without having a previous development licence, you can go directly to an operating licence only when:

  • you are currently operating a facility that requires an operating licence, under the Environment Protection Regulations.
  • your operating licence expires, and you are re-applying for the same activity, at the same activity address.

The legal basis of operating licences are in section 45 of the Environment Protection Act 2017.

Licences become operating licences

If you have a current licence, this automatically transitions to an operating licence on 1 July 2021. However, the conditions of your new operating licence will change.  You can review the conditions by licence type.

We will work with each industry sector to transition to the new arrangements throughout the 2021/22 financial year. When we get in touch, we’ll explain our requirements and the condition changes specific to your licence. For more information about the process, refer to the Transition process for operating licence holders (publication 2019).

The timeframe to transition each type of operating licence is as follows:

You can still apply to amend or transfer your operating licence before the transition. If your application is accepted, we’ll transition and amend it at the same time.

Amalgamated licences are a collection of licences held by one licence holder under the Environment Protection Act 1970. Under the new laws, these licences will no longer exist. Licence holders will instead receive a licence for each individual site during the transition period.

If you have any queries, please contact us.

How to apply

You can apply for an operating licence online.

For more application support, see How to apply for a licence.

Assessment process for new applications  

Once you have submitted your operating licence application online, here’s what will happen next:

  1. We will assess your application. Part of this process will include checking against the environmental requirements. This is under section 74(3) in the Environment Protection Act 2017. We will also consider any public comments received and your responses to them.  
  2. If we approve your operating licence, proposed conditions will be discussed with you before being issued. You will also receive a draft operating licence, before it is finalised.

Approval timelines

If you already hold a development licence

We are required to decide within 15 business days of receiving your operating licence application. This is providing you’ve received a statement confirming you’ve completed the activity to our satisfaction.

In all other situations

We need to decide on a complete operating licence application within 42 business days of receiving it. However, this timeframe can change if we need additional information to make a decision.

Fees for an operating licence

There is no fee when you are progressing from a development licence to an operating licence. If you do not hold a development licence, the fee for an operating licence application is 84.78 fee units. This is the ‘base’ fee, which applies to all applications. If our assessment of your application exceeds 13 hours, an additional fee will apply.

Appealing a decision

You can appeal to have a decision reviewed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). This must be within 15 business days. For further information contact VCAT on (03) 9628 9777.

Send a copy of the appeal to the EPA within seven days of lodgement. Mark this to the attention of the Manager, Development Assessment Units.


Permission exemptions may apply to some activities.  

Complying with your operating licence

You must ensure operating licence activities are maintained and operated so that the risk of harm to human health and the environment is reduced. This is so far as reasonably practicable. We will review your operating licence periodically. This is to make sure you are up-to-date with changing science, environmental conditions and community standards. As a result of this review, there may be a variation of licence conditions or revocation of the licence.

Webinar – changes to operating licences

We have recorded a six-part webinar to help explain the changes as we transition from licences to operating licences.

You can choose to run through all the short videos as a playlist to see the entire presentation or you can choose to view a specific video. Individual videos include:

  • Part 1 – Introduction
  • Part 2 – Background and overview of the new permissions framework
  • Part 3 – Transition of licences
  • Part 4 – Changes to operating licence conditions
  • Part 5 – Standard and specific conditions
  • Part 6 – Further Information and your feedback.

To be read in conjunction with the videos, draft supporting guidance includes:

  1. Draft Guidance for operating licences (publication 1850) explains how operating licences under the Act will differ from old licences. Changes to the preamble of the operating licence template and revised General conditions are outlined in Section 1. The approach to Sectorial/Activity based and site-based conditions is discussed in Section 2.
  2. Draft Implementing the general environmental duty: A guide for licence holders (publication 1851) steps out the process in detail of developing a Risk Management and Monitoring Program as is one of the drafted operating licence conditions. These programs are to enable operating licence holders to monitor and demonstrate compliance with the General Environmental Duty. 
  3. Draft Operating licence statutory document template outlines the look and structure of your new operating licence. 

Read more


Development licences

Pilot project licences

Types of operating licences and their conditions

Reviewed 20 July 2021