Environmental Compliance

Environmental Compliance


Environmental Compliance


HCCREMS has been working with member councils since 2008 on numerous environmental compliance initiatives – all designed to assist with improving standards, systems and practices relating to compliance with and enforcement of environmental legislation.

Our Program aims to:

  • build the commitment, capacity, skills and resources of Council staff to effectively and consistently prioritise and enforce environmental legislation and standards
  • provide councils with a suite of best practice tools and supporting resources to effectively implement environmental regulation and enforcement activities
  • deliver coordinated regional community education and enforcement campaigns targeting regional environmental compliance priorities
  • facilitate the establishment of partnerships and resource sharing between councils and other organisations, to support the ongoing implementation of collaborative enforcement and compliance campaigns
  • improve the nature and consistency of data collection across the region to allow the identification of regional trends and priorities.

Since 2008 we have completed a number of projects that have been recognised as industry best practice.

Regional Contaminated Land Program

Current Project: Regional Contaminated Land Program

The Regional Contaminated Land Capacity Building Program aims to build the technical expertise and capacity of Councils within the Hunter region to effectively identify, assess and manage contaminated land management issues. Primary elements of the program include:

  • Development of regionally consistent contaminated land policies and procedures
  • Training and capacity building forums for Council staff to improve individual and corporate knowledge and skills, and to provide access to external technical expertise and support
  • Assisting Councils prepare for the transfer of management responsibilities for Underground Petroleum Storage Systems from the NSW Environment Protection Authority in 2017

The program has been made possible by the New South Wales Government through the EPA’s Contaminated Land Management Program with funding provided by the NSW Environmental Trust. It is part of a broader NSW `Contaminated Land Management Regional Capacity Building Support Program’ EPA that is providing assistance to Councils (through the funding of regional support staff) to manage and build local capacity in the management of contaminated land issues.

Councils participating in the current program include:

  • Lake Macquarie Council
  • Dungog Shire Council
  • MidCoast Council
  • Maitland City Council
  • Cessnock City Council
  • Singleton Council
  • Port Stephens Council
  • Upper Hunter Shire Council
  • Muswellbrook Shire Council



Contaminated Land Forum


A regional contaminated land forum relating to the management of asbestos was held on 10 August 2017. The forum explored and clarified different asbestos management scenarios facing Councils and the associated regulatory frameworks and responsibilities (i.e. who is responsible for what), appropriate assessment and remediation standards, and key resources available to assist Councils.

Presentations and information available from the forum are provided here




Register of Contaminated Land Consent Conditions

Investigating and managing contamination through the development application process is a primary means through which Councils meet their legislative responsibilities under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

To assist Councils with this task a Register of Contaminated Land Consent Conditions is now available. The Register provides context and model “Requests for Information” or “Conditions of Development Consent” for each stage of the Contaminated Land Process.

The Register aims to:

  • Encourage a consistent approach by Councils in the Hunter Region to the assessment and management of  contaminated land through the development assessment process; and
  • Ensure conditions of consent are appropriately worded to meet planning requirements and are enforceable in law

The Register can be downloaded from our Resources page




Land Use Planning

A MODEL Regional Contaminated Land Policy – Land Use Planning is now available to support member Councils develop local Contaminated Land policies in a regionally consistent manner.

Adapting the MODEL Regional Policy to their Local Government Area will assist Councils demonstrate adherence with  the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and the NSW Managing Land Contamination Planning Guidelines – SEPP 55 Remediation of Land 1998 (“the Planning Guidelines”), which strongly recommends that “each local council develop and adopt a formal policy for managing land contamination to provide a local context for decision making” and that “the policy should be consistent with the Guidelines and either adopt or be based on them, with variations based on local conditions and procedure”.

The Policy seeks to achieve the key principles of:

  • Ensuring any land use changes will not increase risk to human health or the environment
  • Avoiding inappropriate restrictions on land use
  • Providing information to support decision making and to inform the community of Council’s requirements.

The MODEL Regional Contaminated Land Policy – Land Use Planning can be accessed on our Resources page


Land Forum:

Regional Contaminated Land Forum: Managing Contamination on Council Land

The Forum was held on 30 March 2017 as part of the Regional Contaminated Land Program for the Hunter Region.

As land managers, Councils have the responsibility to ensure that any contamination on either community or operational land (such as public parks, sport fields, road reserves, and landfill sites) resulting from the Site’s history does not cause harm to the environment or public health. Common historical land uses contributing to contamination of Council managed lands include former landfills, night soil sites, gasworks, mines, council depots, uncontrolled fill, and derelict underground petroleum storage systems (UPSS).



The Forum focused on:

  • Councils’ obligations for managing contamination on their land
  • Common contaminating activities on Council managed land
  • Triggers for Council’s duty to report contamination to the EPA
  • The development of strategies and procedures for identifying and managing contamination
  • Case studies of management systems implemented by Councils and NSW Department of Lands
  • Workshop: developing an Action Plan for managing contamination on public land in the Hunter region

Where to from here?

A high level Action Plan is being developed based on the outcomes of the workshop. The Action Plan will be provided to the Hunter Councils participating in the Regional Capacity Building Program to assist them in managing contamination on their land.

Presentations from the forum are provided here.

Local Government Environmental Compliance Best Practice Tools

Local Government Environmental Compliance Best Practice Tools

The Local Government Compliance and Enforcement: Regulation Review 2013 undertaken by IPART assessed and acknowledged the value of the HCCREMS programs and encouraged their adoption more broadly across NSW. The range of tools produced in recent years are summarised below:

eREF (electronic Review of Environmental Factors) Management System

The eREF is a Microsoft Access database which assists council officers to identify, collate and assess all the appropriate information for decision makers to appropriately determine if activities captured under Part 5 of the EP&A Act should be undertaken.

IPART in its 2013 review, made the following comment:

“HCCREMS e-REF template assists councils in making environmental impact assessments under Part 5 of the EP&A Act, where council is the determining authority for its own activities (eg, road construction). Undertaking Review of Environmental Factors (REFs) is a difficult and legally complex undertaking. Prior to the e-REF template’s introduction, councils were being prosecuted by the EPA for undertaking these activities poorly. This online tool assists councils in completing this process correctly, saves time, and secures better environmental outcomes. We consider the e-REF to be leading practice. It provides a practical example of the benefits to councils and communities through greater use of technology and council collaboration.”

Compliance Assurance Policy and Guidelines

Includes a model Compliance Assurance Policy and associated guidelines to support implementation of the Policy. The Model Policy provides support to councils to conduct both proactive and reactive compliance activities and clearly indicates that proactive strategies may assist with reducing the incidents of non compliance and environmental harm. Guidelines are provided to assist with:

  • Compliance Inspections and Monitoring
  • Developing Quality Conditions of Consent
  • Promoting Voluntary Compliance
  • Managing Reports of Non-Compliance
  • Investigations
  • Evidence Gathering
  • Recorded Interviewing
  • Use of Surveillance Cameras
  • Enforcement Options

Further details on the policy and guidelines are included in the Resource Library.

Practical Compliance Systems Review

HCCREMS, with the assistance of the City of Newcastle and AECOM developed a Practical System Review (self assessment) which assists councils to review the performance of their compliance management systems and identify if there are any modifications to systems or practices that may enhance current systems. The Practical System Review provides the following benefits to Councils:

  • An opportunity for discussion and reflection on organisational processes
  • A standard methodology for identifying strengths and weaknesses in current compliance systems and practices
  • A structured methodology for tracking (and potentially reporting on) progress over time
  • An ability to prioritise corrective actions and improvements to systems to ensure they deliver the desired compliance outcomes
  • Building staff knowledge and skills in relation to best practice.

IPART identified the Systems review tool as best practice Saying:

The self-assessment tool developed by HCCREMS (within the Hunter ROC) represents leading practice amongst councils. The Hunter self-assessment tool includes a set of questions that councils can use to assess their own regulatory capacity. The tool can be used on a number of levels, including:

  • at a basic level – to ensure a council has a records system in place, or
  • at higher level – to assess how good a council’s records system is.

A copy of the self-assessment tool is located in our Resource Library.

Funding Environmental Compliance

This report looks at the various options available to councils in New South Wales to raise funds for environmental compliance and protection programs. Options include:

  • Fees for compliance services
  • Levies, including environmental levies
  • Fines from criminal prosecutions for regulatory breaches
  • Administrative orders for environmental protection
  • Security (bonds) for issues such as impacts on council property (e.g. trees) or other environmental impacts (e.g. salinity and drainage)
  • Voluntary Planning Agreements
  • Contributions to public infrastructure or services
  • Biodiversity certification of planning instruments
  • Public Positive Covenants Grants

To access this resource please visit our Resource Library.


Community Awareness Campaigns

Campaign materials were developed to assist Councils to engage with their communities over illegal earthworks and illegal filling.

Documentation is available from our Resource Library.