Compliance with environmental laws in Australia

As property development continues to represent a significant part of the economy in Australia, it is important to be aware of the environmental laws that must be complied with. Failure to adhere to these laws can lead to severe financial and legal repercussions for those involved.


In Australia, the most important regulations related to property development are the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the National Environment Protection Regulation (NEPR).

Under the EPBC Act, any development proposal or activities that may have a significant effect on a protected species, ecologically sustainable development, or the environment in general must be assessed and approved by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Office (EPBCO). The EPBC Act imposes numerous obligations on developers, from conducting environmental impact surveys to obtaining relevant state and federal approvals. It also requires property developers to consider potential impacts of development on native flora and fauna, the marine environment, air quality, water quality, and cultural heritage.

The National Environment Protection Regulation (NEPR) outline the environmental standards that must be met in terms of air and water quality, waste management, noise pollution, and hazardous substances. These regulations are currently applicable in all states and territories.

Additionally, the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) requires all development activities to adhere to minimum environmental standards, which may include environmental auditing, monitoring, and impact assessments. The National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) oversees the federal government’s commitment to maintaining the environmental standards across Australia.


All developers in Australia are also expected to comply with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPAA) and the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA).

The EPAA sets out the environmental, economic, social and cultural assessments that developers must undertake in order to gain approval for a development proposal, and includes provisions related to land management, conservation, and biodiversity. The EMPCA, on the other hand, sets out pollution reduction requirements and regulations that developers must meet in order to limit the environmental impacts of their activities.

State based laws and regulations

Finally, individual state and territory governments may have their own legislation and regulations related to property development and environmental protection. Some of the most important environmental laws to consider include:

  • the Environmental Protection Act 1970 (EP Act) in Western Australia
  • the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) in New South Wales
  • the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act) in Victoria, and
  • the Environment Protection Authority Act 1993 (EPAA) in South Australia.

Local council laws

Finally, local councils also have their own environmental regulations that must be adhered to. These regulations usually include provisions related to land use, waste management and water conservation. Local councils also monitor the development process and ensure that all the relevant laws have been followed.

It is also worth noting that the development process should always be carried out in accordance with the principles of Sustainable Development. This requires developers to take into account the long-term impacts of any given development project on the environment, the economy, and the local community.

Developers must be aware of the potential consequences of failing to comply with these environmental laws. This could include financial penalties, punitive damages, suspension or cancellation of development consent, and court orders. Failure to comply can also result in reputational damage which could have a significant impact on a developer’s ability to obtain approval for future projects.

By following these laws, developers can ensure that their activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.