Overhaul of Victorian environmental laws delayed

COVID-19 Environment & Planning Oil & Gas

Key takeaways of the COVID-19 Act

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 a part of a suite of emergency measures in response to COVID-19.

By way of background, on 24 April 2020 the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020  (VIC) (COVID-19 Act) passed the Victorian Parliament, and received royal assent. 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.

The key takeaways of the COVID-19 Act are:

  • the COVID-19 Act defers the mandatory commencement of all provisions of the EP Act that have not yet come into operation from 1 December 2020 to 1 December 2021 (unless an earlier date is proclaimed);
  • the sections of the EP Act that have already commenced (Sections 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;
  • 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); and
  • the existing framework under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (VIC) will continue to apply until the new laws commence.

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.

The Victorian Premier advised that the purpose of the deferral is to 'allow business and industry to focus on the immediate impacts of coronavirus.' 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.

For further details on the COVID-19 Act please refer to our full article here.

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