INSIGHT

Overhaul of Victorian environmental laws delayed until 1 July 2021

By Jillian Button, Elise Rutherfurd, Zainab Mahmood
COVID-19 Environment & Planning

In brief 3 min read

The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (Vic) (EP Act), which was set to commence on 1 July 2020 (and overhaul environmental laws in Victoria) will now commence on 1 July 2021 as part of a suite of emergency measures in response to COVID-19. Our team looks at the COVID-19 Act and how it relates to the EP Act.

The COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (COVID-19 Act) has passed the Victorian Parliament, and received royal assent on 24 April 2020 . In addition to a host of other COVID-related reforms, this Act will delay the commencement of the EP Act until December 2021, at the latest.

These amendments provide duty holders under the EP Act and in-house counsel additional time to prepare for the introduction of the new laws and to digest the regulations, environment reference standards, noise protocols and various compliance codes (as these are released over the coming months).  

We have set out the 'what, how, when, why and who' of the COVID-19 Act below, to the extent this Act relates to the EP Act.

WHAT are the key amendments to the EP Act?

The COVID-19 Act defers the mandatory commencement of all provisions of the EP Act that have not yet come into operation. The 'long-stop' date for the commencement of those parts of the EP Act has been amended from 1 December 2020, to 1 December 2021. The sections of the EP Act that have already commenced (Section 19 and Part 3) will continue to apply as normal.

The COVID-19 Act does not make any changes to the content of the laws under the EP Act.

HOW does the amendment work?

The COVID-19 Act revokes the previous proclamation of commencement made on 3 March 2020 (which proclaimed that the remaining provisions of the EP Act would commence on 1 July 2020). The existing framework under the Environment Protection Act 1970 will continue to apply until the new laws commence.1

WHEN will the EP Act commence?

As noted above, the COVID-19 Act has amended the commencement of the EP Act until 1 December 2021 – unless an earlier date is proclaimed.

That said, the Victorian Government has advised that it intends to proclaim an earlier commencement date of 1 July 2021, rather than using the full extension of time allowed under the COVID-19 Act.  Therefore, we anticipate the EP Act commencing in full by 1 July 2021.

WHY are these changes necessary?

The Victorian Premier advised that the purpose of the deferral is to 'allow business and industry to focus on the immediate impacts of coronavirus.'2 The delay will also provide more time for the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to finalise the regulations, environment reference standards, noise protocols and various compliance codes.

WHO should consider these changes?

Duty holders can expect the EP Act to commence on 1 July 2021 and should prepare accordingly. We recommend continuing to prepare by reviewing existing guidance material published by the EPA, including:

Organisations that have developed transition strategies for the EP Act should revise the timeframes for implementing those strategies.

Organisations that have not yet developed transition strategies now have the opportunity to investigate the impacts of the reforms on their businesses, and develop a transition strategy which responds to the new commencement timetable.

Allens is working with a number of clients to prepare for the implementation of the new EP Act. Should you wish to discuss these reforms, or require advice on the impacts of the reforms on your business, please get in touch.

Footnotes

  1. Second Reading Speech, Legislative Council, Hansard, Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating)

  2. Temporary Emergency Measures to Manage Coronavirus Crisis, Attorney-General Victoria (21 April 2020 Media Release) available https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/temporary-emergency-measures-to-manage-coronavirus-crisis/