This article was written by Mark Beaufoy
On Thursday 9 August 2018, after some debate, the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament passed the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 and it will now head back to the Legislative Assembly for consideration.
The Bill passed the Legislative Assembly on 26 July 2018 with no amendments, and only relatively minor amendments were made in the Legislative Council. Those amendments will need to be considered by the Legislative Assembly on the next Parliamentary sitting days (from 21 August 2018) and the Bill will then go to the Governor to receive Royal Assent shortly after that (late August / early September).
The Bill is part of a package of reforms including the Environment Protection Act 2017 (relating to the EPA’s objectives and governance) which was passed and received Royal Assent on 24 October 2017. The provisions of the Environment Protection Act 2017 commenced over a number of dates with all provisions commencing on 1 July 2018.
The key reforms in the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 were described in our earlier update when the Bill was introduced into the Parliament by the Victorian Environment Minister on 20 June 2018.
The passing of the Bill paves the way for a new proactive approach to environmental protection regulation in Victoria, centred on the new general environmental duty, duty to take action to respond to harm caused by a pollution incident and the duty to manage contaminated land.
The passing of this Bill is very significant for all businesses operating in Victoria. Once the Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law, the Act provides for the substantive provisions of the legislation to commence on 1 July 2020. This will allow time for the reform of hundreds of subordinate instruments (regulations, policies and guidelines, and the development of new compliance codes and environmental reference standards) which will be required under the new legislation and to give time for industry to prepare and transition to the new regime.
We will continue to follow these amendments closely including opportunities for review and comment on subordinate instruments, policies, guidelines and other documents to support the commencement and implementation of the legislation which will be prepared and published by DELWP and EPA over the coming months.
As the legislation is so comprehensive in the changes it makes to existing Victorian environmental protection legislation, we will be preparing a series of updates on the key Chapters of the new legislation including the new duties related to environment protection (Chapter 3), new permissions (Chapter 4), new EPA powers and tools (Chapters 8, 9 and 10), enforcement and proceedings (Chapter 11).
Now is a good time to be briefing management and / or the Board or risk committee on this legislation to ensure that it is on the agenda for resourcing and updating existing environmental, health and safety management systems to take into account and respond to the new requirements when they commence.
If you have any questions about the Bill and timetable for its commencement and implementation, please contact Mark Beaufoy.