Compliance audit program

The EPA carries out an ongoing compliance audit program, which includes

  • audit programs on industry sectors and activities
  • focused audits on individual sites
  • Strategic Environmental Compliance and Performance Reviews

The EPA also undertakes joint audit programs or campaigns with other government agencies and local government.

Section 78 (4A) of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), requires the EPA to audit compliance with licence requirements, on an industry wide or regional basis.  


Compliance audits are used to

  • maintain the integrity of the regulatory system managed by legislation, licences and notices
  • ensure consistent, credible and robust regulation
  • improve compliance with legislative requirements
  • ensure the EPA’s regulatory activities are open and transparent
  • ensure that the statutory instruments are robust and are appropriately used to achieve desired environmental outcomes

Reviewing regulation of individual sites and industry sectors helps identify areas where improved regulation will help achieve the desired environmental outcomes by using  education, consultation and negotiation, and enforcement.

Compliance Audit Handbook

Audits are conducted in accordance with the procedures and protocols in the Compliance Audit Handbook (PDF 542KB) which ensures that audits are consistent, adequate, reliable and comparable.

The handbook is a guide for EPA officers but may also be used by other organisations undertaking compliance audits (including public authorities, industry and industry groups, professional associations, consultants and contractors) and as an educational resource by students.

Strategic environmental compliance and performance reviews

Strategic Environmental Compliance and Performance Reviews combine an audit program with a review of best environmental management practices to encourage improved environmental performance. Public reports are released and the review findings feed into licence reviews and ongoing compliance activities. Consultation with external stakeholders can be sought.

Sectors and activities are targeted for review by assessing major environmental and community concerns alongside the EPA’s corporate objectives and strategies. Criteria considered include

  • the likelihood of environmental harm to human health and the environment from an activity
  • the nature of hazards associated with chemicals used
  • the complexity of the activity
  • emissions and wastes from the activity
  • gaps in understanding about the activity
  • environmental performance
  • location of the activity
  • community concern
  • the opportunity to make significant environmental gains in relation to the activity
  • opportunities to integrate with other EPA programs

Focused audits

The EPA also carries out audits of individual regulated sites which focus on a key environmental issue or community concern relating to the enterprise, to determine the licensee’s compliance and to improve performance.

Reporting compliance audit findings

The findings of each audit and a follow-up action program are reported in a compliance audit report. The EPA follows up to ensure that all issues are addressed by the enterprise.

The compliance audit reports are published on the POEO public register, and reports summarising the findings of industry-wide audit programs and strategic environmental compliance and performance reviews are published on the EPA website.

Findings help the EPA provide resources to guide industry, to understand and manage the environmental and business risk of operating in their industries. The findings are also a valuable resource to assist other regulators, such as local councils undertake their compliance activities.

Strategic environmental compliance and performance review reports

Summary of compliance audit reports

Focused audit: Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval

Final Compliance Audit Report: Forestry Corporation of NSW

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