Sections 53X and 53V of the Environment Protection Act 1970 define two types of environmental audits – referred to as 53X and 53V audits.
A 53X (‘condition of the environment’) audit is most frequently used by the planning system and verifies that potentially contaminated land can be used for a specific use (industrial, commercial or residential). From a 53X audit comes either a certificate or statement of environmental audit.
Generally, a 53X audit is required when land proposed for new use is potentially contaminated or already covered by an environmental audit overlay (EAO) within a planning scheme. An example of this might be construction of residential buildings on former industrial land. The audit may be required by local government to satisfy a planning permit or undertaken voluntarily to satisfy commercial due-diligence requirements.
The auditor undertakes an assessment of the condition of the land, gathering information about the site, including its history of use, sampling and analysis of the soil (and sometimes groundwater, surface water and air).
Environmental audits overview (for s53X audits only) (publication 1609) is an easy-to-use, printable flier that introduces the audit process.
Outcomes of a 53X audit
After a 53X audit either a certificate or a statement is issued.
A certificate of environmental audit indicates that the land is suitable for any use – there are no restrictions on the use of the site due to its environmental condition.
A statement of environmental audit indicates the site is:
- suitable for a nominated use, subject to conditions and/or limitations in its use (local government is responsible for enforcing these conditions). Once a statement is issued, the site owner or occupier must use the site in a manner consistent with the issues outlined in the statement.
The occupier of a site holding an issued statement of environmental audit must provide a copy of the statement to any person who proposes to move onto or otherwise occupy the site.
A 53V (‘risk of harm’) audit is most commonly used by EPA to understand the risk to the environment posed by an industrial activity or to validate that cleanup of contaminated land or groundwater has occurred.
The 53V audit assesses the risk of any possible harm to a site caused by an industrial process or activity, waste substance or noise. This includes audits associated with the construction and operation of landfills.
A 53V audit can be used to demonstrate compliance with an EPA licence or to assess the remaining contamination on a site to support the scope of a cleanup plan.
A 53V audit can be required by a planning authority (local government) when there is a planning permit application relating to a site located in a landfill buffer zone.
Outcome of a 53V audit
The outcome of a 53V audit is an audit report, usually with recommendations for ongoing management of the land, including a direction or guidance to minimise or further investigate any remaining risks.