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A snapshot of EHP Annual Report 2016-17 - 21 November 2017

In September 2017, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) released its Annual Report 2016-2017. The following is a snapshot extracted from the annual report of particular interest to the EHP’s role as Queensland’s environmental regulator.

  • Two Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) assessments were completed in 2016-17 and six are still in progress as at 30 June 2017.
  • Over 70,000 searches of the environmental management and contaminated land registers were undertaken in 2016-17. As at 30 June 2017, 22,669 sites are recorded in the environmental management register (EMR) and nine sites are recorded on the contaminated land register (CLR).
  • In 2016-17, DEHP received 12,325 notifications that ranged from minor incident notifications and reporting under environmental authority (EA) requirements, to notifications for significant incidents such as major spills and fires.
  • A proposed framework for improved mine rehabilitation was released for public consultation as part of the proposed reform to the State’s financial assurance framework for the resources sector. Further information and comments on this reform can be found here.
  • The Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill 2017 was introduced, and proposed legislative amendments to enable the implementation of a container refund scheme and a plastic shopping bag ban by 1 July 2018.
  • In January 2017, a statutory guideline was released with respect to the powers contained in the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016. This guideline was considered by HopgoodGanim earlier in the year.

Offsets

  • Two additional advanced offsets were registered in 2016-17 – the first was for marine plants (mangroves) at the Port of Brisbane (in Brisbane City Council) and the second for marine plants (saltmarsh, casuarina and mangroves) at North East Business Park, Morayfield (in Moreton Bay Regional Council).
  • As at 30 June 2017, there were a total of four advanced offsets registered.
  • During the reporting period, $2,788,824 was received into the EHP’s Offsets Account for 34 separate offsets payments. Since it was established in 2014, EHP’s Offsets Account has received $5,064,087 from proponents for 58 separate offset payments.

Heritage

  • 16 new State Heritage Places were added to the Queensland Heritage Register in 2016-17. This makes a total of 1,741 places listed on the Register as at 30 June 2017.
  • The Queensland Heritage Council decided against entering six nominated places in the Register in 2016-17.
  • The Queensland Heritage Council was successful in an appeal against the entry of St Patricks Convent, Townsville in the Heritage Register in 2012. A consideration of the issues in that case can be found here.
  • In 2016-17, the EHP assessed 668 development applications (compared with 534 applications in 2015-16) in relation to development which may have an impact on heritage significance.

Compliance and enforcement

  • 615 warnings issued
  • 2,411 penalty infringement notices (PINs) issued (with the majority for vehicle and vessel related littering incidents). Of the 132 PINs issued for non-littering related offences, 102 were issued to corporations in relation to contravention of a condition of an EA
  • Three transitional environmental programs were approved
  • There are two current temporary emission licences (TELs) (out of 14 applications received) with 27 TELs expiring in the 2016-17 period
  • 25 environmental evaluations issued
  • 45 environmental protection orders issued
  • 12 direction notices issued
  • Two emergency directions issued
  • Eight clean-up notices issued
  • 11 requests for relevant information
  • 33 formal investigations
  • In September 2016, the final phase of the criminal proceedings against Linc Energy commenced when an indictment was presented to the District Court, alleging five counts of wilfully causing serious environmental harm. Five individual defendants formerly associated with the company are also facing a total of 11 charges. The Annual Report indicates that the criminal proceedings against the company are the largest of its kind undertaken by the DEHP’s litigation branch.
  • 29 prosecutions were commenced and 15 prosecutions were finalised, with fines totalling $1,176,500 (and legal and investigative costs of $125,589 awarded).
  • The largest fine imposed in 2016-17 was a fine of $400,000, which included a $150,000 public benefit order for one count of unlawfully causing serious environmental harm.
  • No restraint orders were made by the Planning and Environment Court in the reporting period.
  • Two search warrants were executed under the Nature Conservation Act and two search warrants were executed under the Environmental Protection Act.

Environmental relevant activities 

  • Approximately 7,000 EAs are now publicly available on the DEHP’s online EA Register.
  • 359 new EAs for resource environmental relevant activities (ERAs) were approved in 2016-17. Of the 359 new EAs for resource ERAs, 148 are not yet effective for various reasons. These include if a necessary development permit has not taken effect yet or if the relevant tenure has not been granted.
  • The total number of EAs issued for resource activities as at 30 June 2017 is 2,970.
  • 316 EAs for prescribed ERAs (other than resource or agricultural ERAs) were issued by the EHP in the reporting period and 21 were issued by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).
  • The total number of EAs for prescribed ERAs current as at 30 June 2017 is 3017 for DEHP and 615 for the DAF.
  • 572 applications to be registered as a suitable operator were approved, taking the total number of suitable operators registered as at 30 June 2017 to 8,707. The statistics reveal that no applications for registration as a suitable operator were refused in the reporting period.

The next 12 months

The Annual Report also reveals the DEHP’s focus in 2017-18 will include:

  • The continued prosecution of allegations of serious environmental harm.
  • Commencing the rehabilitation of land affected by underground coal gasification contamination.
  • Identifying sites and providing advice in relation to land impacted by fire-fighting foam contamination.
  • Delivery of a redesigned financial assurance framework.

For more information or discussion, please contact HopgoodGanim Lawyers' Planning & Development team.


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