Environment and pollution laws
In Queensland, no single part of the environmental legal system or level of government regulates all activities. Instead, they are linked, forming a safety net that protects the environment.
Below is a summary of the major pieces of the Queensland environmental legal system, including the major Acts and Regulations, and codes of practice.
You can do a search for full details of all these laws (Acts).
Environmental Protection Act
The key piece of environmental legislation in Queensland is the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act).
The EP Act protects our environment with a focus on ecologically sustainable development.
It creates a general duty for all people, companies and government bodies to take all reasonable and practicable steps to avoid harm to the environment.
Under the EP Act, it’s an offence to cause harm to the environment. It’s also an offence to not notify authorities if you’re doing an activity and become aware that it’s causing environmental harm.
Read page 22 of the Synopsis of the Queensland environmental law system for more detail about the EP Act.
Government environmental compliance
Generally, the Queensland Government must comply with the following laws that protect the environment:
- Sustainable Planning Act 2009
- Biodiscovery Act 2004
- Clean Energy Act 2008
- Electricity Act 1994
- Fire and Rescue Services Act 1990
- Geothermal Energy Act 2010
- Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009
- Iconic Queensland Places Act 2008
- Land Act 1994
- Mineral Resources Act 1989
- Marine Parks Act 2004
- Native Title Queensland Act 1993
- Offshore Minerals Act 1998
- Public Health Act 2005
- Recreation Areas Management Act 2006
The Sustainable Planning Act 2009 is the foundation of the system, as it regulates planning and development for areas other than mining and petroleum, which have separate regimes <link to mining and petroleum page>.
Other environmental laws
Under the Clean Energy Act, medium-sized business energy users in Queensland must identify ways to reduce energy consumption and promote energy efficiency.
The Fire and Rescue Services Act 1990 regulates fire safety and the use of fire. It prohibits the lighting of fires unless the fire is:
- authorised by a fire permit
- less than 2 metres in length, width or height
- in a fireplace
- burning the carcass of a beast.
It also provides for local fire bans where there is a high fire risk.
Mining, oil, and gas
The Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009 regulates the long-term underground storage of greenhouse gases.
Marine and fishing
The Fisheries Act 1994 regulates fishing, development in fisheries habitat areas, and damage of marine plants in Queensland.
The Forestry Act regulates the removal of timber, other forest products and quarry material from state land. State land includes state forests, leasehold land and unallocated state land. It covers 80 per cent of the state. ‘Forest products’ includes all vegetable growth and material of vegetable origin.
The Gene Technology Act 2001 regulates research, production and release of genetically modified organisations, and genetically modified crops and products.
Coast and river protection
The Coastal Protection and Management Act provides for the regulation of dredging, quarrying, canal construction, tidal works and other activities in coast management districts and erosion-prone areas.
Development and planning
- Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993
- Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003
- Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003
The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.
Environmental regulations and plans
- Coastal Protection and Management (Coastal Management Districts) Regulation 2003
- Coastal Protection and Management Regulation 2003
- Environmental Protection Regulation 2008
- Environmental Protection (Waste Management) Regulation 2000
- Queensland Heritage Regulation 2003
- Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2011
- Water Regulation 2002
- Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Regulation 2011
- Wild Rivers Regulation 2007
Read more about environmental regulations in Queensland.
Nature Conservation Act 1992:
- Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation plan 2006
- Nature Conservation (Estuarine Crocodile) Conservation Plan 2007
- Nature Conservation (Dugong) Conservation Plan 1999
- Nature Conservation (Macropod) Conservation Plan 2005
- Nature Conservation (Protected Plants) Conservation Plan 2000
- Nature Conservation (Whales and Dolphins) Conservation Plan 1997
Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993:
Read more about the environmental plans in Queensland.
Environmental codes of practice
Types of environmental codes
A code of practice is generally a collection of rules or procedures about a topic or activity.
In Queensland, there are 3 types of environmental codes:
- industry codes of practice
- nature conservation codes
- codes of environmental compliance (to cease on 31 March 2013).
Industry codes of practice
Industries or industry associations usually prepare these codes to advise members how to prevent or minimise environmental harm.
Preparing a code is voluntary. Industries often prepare them to demonstrate their environmental responsibility. Codes of practice approved by the minister have legal standing under the EP Act—showing that you’ve complied with the code can give you a defence to certain offences under the Act.
Read more about industry codes of practice.
Nature conservation codes
Several codes of practice relate to the nature conservation legislation.
Read more about nature conservation codes.
Codes of environmental compliance
The minister may approve standard environmental conditions for ‘environmentally relevant activities’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1994. These conditions are contained in codes of environmental compliance.
Read more about codes of environmental compliance.
Pollution and air quality
Regulating and monitoring pollution
Air quality in Queensland is affected by emissions from human activities, such as transport, industry, rural and domestic activities. The main human sources of air emissions are transport and industrial activities.
Different approaches are applied to different activities to achieve the most efficient and effective mix of control measures. Natural events, such as bush fires, dust storms, temperature and rainfall, also help determine regional air quality but are not subject to human management.
State and national laws aim to regulate air quality to protect human health and well-being.
The National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality (Air NEPM) regulates pollution at a national level.
Air NEPM sets out national standards for the 6 key air pollutions to which most Australians are exposed:
- carbon monoxide
- sulphur dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
- lead and particles.
- The legislation also requires regions with a population of more than 25,000 to be monitored.
In Queensland, 9 such regions are monitored:
- South East Queensland
- Maryborough–Hervey Bay
Although Mt Isa is not required under Air NEPM, it is also monitored and reported on because of the region’s industrial activity.
Read more about the Australian air quality standards.
Emission standards for new vehicles are set by Australian Design Rules under the Commonwealth Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989. Ongoing tightening of these standards over the past 20 years has resulted in large reductions in emissions.
Managing land resources
Read about the obligations of land managers in Queensland.
Read how the environmental legal system works.
Read more about types of air pollutants.
Read more about what causes air pollution, and what we can do to reduce it.
Find out how air quality is managed in Queensland.