Stronger environmental laws to hold waste criminals and polluters to account

Environmental laws are now stronger than ever with greater ability to hold waste criminals and those responsible for contamination to account thanks to new laws passed in the NSW Parliament last night.

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 will help stop innocent landowners and the Government footing the bill for illegal dumping and contaminated land.

“When our environmental laws were introduced decades ago, they were powerful and used as the benchmark around Australia, but now is the right time to strengthen them again,” Mr Griffin said.

“Since 2012, these laws have been used to successfully prosecute nearly 680 polluters and make them pay $12 million through the courts for their crimes.

“Criminal behaviour has evolved since then, which is why we’ve created powerful amendments to strengthen the law so waste criminals can’t exploit and profit from loopholes.”

In the past three years, these loopholes have seen more than 132,000 tonnes of contaminated waste being illegally dumped in NSW, and the Government or innocent landholders being left with substantial clean-up costs.

Some of the updates to the legislation include:

  • Ensuring current and former directors of corporate bodies are held responsible for their crimes, even if they’ve set up and then dissolved companies (phoenixing) to deflect accountability
  • Holding to account related companies that benefit from a crime both financially, and in future licensing decisions
  • Acting against the owners of vehicles involved in illegal waste dumping (the Act previously only applied to the driver of a vehicle)
  • Ensuring that if land is subdivided or sold, or if a licence is surrendered, the ongoing management of contaminated sites is maintained and not left to government or innocent landholders to manage
  • New and increased maximum penalties, to further deter criminal behaviour
  • Increased protections for officers investigating environmental offences so they can do their jobs safely.

“These changes will ensure those responsible for contamination and pollution can be made to clean it up or manage it into the future,” Mr Griffin said.

“This is good news for the environment, and for communities that have suffered from the actions of environmental criminals.”

The Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 is another step in the NSW Government’s commitment to waste policy and the environment, following the release of the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041.