Where we’ve come from

The year 2022 was a significant one for the EPA, as we turned thirty. In the spirit of this milestone, we’d like to briefly look back over those three eventful decades and chart our journey to this point.

In 1988 a newly incoming government changed the criminal law governing pollution offences. The following year, pollution offences related to air, water and waste were brought together under a single piece of legislation for the first time.

The changes didn’t stop there. In 1991 the government replaced the environmental regulator at the time, the State Pollution Control Commission (SPCC), with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

A more powerful regulator

The EPA assumed all the regulatory functions of the SPCC and also acquired a range of regulatory functions formerly exercised by other departments. These changes were effected by the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991.

Integrated legislation

Part of the EPA’s brief was to develop an integrated legislative structure for licensing and regulating activities that might harm human health and the environment, and prosecuting offences related to these activities.

This led to the passage of ‘omnibus legislation’, the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Building a solid reputation

The EPA quickly built a reputation as an effective and innovative regulator. We had early successes in improving the water quality of the State’s beaches and waterways, and in regulating forestry and logging.

In 2003 we were incorporated into a newly formed Department of Environment and Conservation.

Incident at Kooragang

In 2011 a major pollution incident at the Orica plant on Kooragang Island in Newcastle became another turning point for the EPA. We were re-established as an independent authority with a reinvigorated Board, a clearly defined mandate and identity, and enhanced powers.

Looking ahead

For the past decade we’ve gone from strength to strength, forging a relationship of trust, respect and recognition with the people of NSW. We strive to be a better organisation through our values of being collaborative, curious, bold, inclusive and kind. We now also acknowledge Aboriginal people in NSW as the original custodians and protectors of Country and work with them under a formal Statement of Commitment.

aerial view of Kooragang Island