Local Governments play a significant role in the protection and conservation of the environment. Under the Protection of the Environment (Operations) Act 1997 (“POEO Act”), local councils are able to regulate and monitor activities in order to mitigate negative environmental impacts.
Power and Functions
Per the POEO Act, the Environment Protection Authority (“EPA”) is the appropriate regulatory authority. However, local councils are often the appropriate regulatory authority for non-scheduled activities that take place in the local area.
Local governments are afforded with various powers and functions under the POEO Act in order to enforce pollution laws, depending on the scale and nature of the pollution. Such powers include the power to investigate, powers of entry and search of premises and powers to require information or records.
Local councils are able to regulate non-scheduled activities by issuing notices and using various enforcement measures. This includes prevention notices which are used to address more systemic pollution and waste management problems. Penalty notices may be issued if the appropriate regulatory authority reasonably suspects that an activity has been or is being carried on in an environmentally unsatisfactory manner at any premises or by any person (otherwise than at premises).
Nonetheless, there are instances where instead of the local council, the EPA will be the regulator for environmental impacts flowing on from a specific activity. For instance, where the EPA issues a licence to regulate water pollution that has been caused by a non-scheduled activity, the EPA will become the regulator for all environmental impacts caused by that particular activity.
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