Restoration of industrial sites under Australian environmental laws

Donna Craig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


Comprehensive data on contaminated sites across Australia is not available. The two most populated states (New South Wales and Victoria) each have at least 30 000 contaminated sites. Many regulatory agencies have tried to assess the risk of land contamination by reference to indicative lists of the types of land uses likely to cause soil or land contamination. Australia has a federal system with 9 jurisdictions and each have different regimes relating to contaminated land. There is only one jurisdiction (Queensland) where there has been any attempt at a comprehensive identification of potentially contaminated and contaminated sites. The Commonwealth Government provides guidelines and standards but primary regulatory authority remains with state and territory governments. This paper considers the scope of liability and the role of the Commonwealth Government. Most parties with an interest in potentially contaminated land are forced to rely on risk assessment processes. For high risk properties, this usually involves a site audit. This is most likely to eventuate if there is a contamination incident, on or near the land or in the groundwater, an intensification or change in use or a transaction involving the land. The legal framework relating to these issues is reviewed in the context of the New South Wales (State) land contamination regime. The provisions to pierce the corporate veil, in relation to remediation orders, are very important. New South Wales has unusually strong legislative provisions for attributing personal environmental liability to directors and managers. The overall situation is far from satisfactory, but is indicative of the peculiarly Australian approach. The government pass huge numbers of statutes and they grow complex administrative systems under them. However, when it comes to compliance and enforcement, there is a strong preference for informal approaches. This makes it extremely difficult to study these aspects in any reliable way.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTowards a "second generation" in environmental laws in the Asian and Pacific region
Subtitle of host publicationselect trends
EditorsLye Lin-Heng, Maria Socorro Z. Manguiat
Place of PublicationGland, Switzerland ; Cambridge
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)2831707536
Publication statusPublished - 2003
EventIUCN/IGES/ADB Symposium (2002) - Tokyo
Duration: 11 Nov 200211 Nov 2002

Publication series

NameIUCN Environmental policy and law paper


ConferenceIUCN/IGES/ADB Symposium (2002)

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