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Queensland Auditor General’s Report: Environmental regulation of the resources and waste industries

Why a report? A recent report presented to the Queensland Parliament last month by the Auditor General Environmental regulation of the resources of waste industries has criticised the Queensland Government’s regulation of the resources and waste industries given its impact on the environment. The instigation of the report comes as no surprise following a series of incidences which may have been avoidable under tighter regulatory control.

The audit was commissioned to determine whether the resource and waste industries were effective in protecting the state from liability and the environment from unnecessary harm in the following areas:

  1. Supervision;
  2. Monitoring; and
  3. Enforcement of any breaches of environmental conditions.

Report’s Findings: According to the Auditor General’s report, “EHP (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection) is not fully effective in its supervision, monitoring and enforcement of environmental conditions and is exposing the state to liability and the environment to harm unnecessarily”. According to the report, the EHP and to a certain extent, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (NRM) has failed in four key areas: supervision, monitoring, enforcement and financial assurance. Underpinning the majority of the inadequacies in these focus points is the poor quality of data being used to regulate the industries which are directly harming Queensland’s environment. According to the Auditory General’s report, the data is “unreliable, hard to access, difficult to analyse; and often incapable of providing timely and quality information to inform decisions”. In response to the findings, the Auditor General proposed a series of recommendations for the EHP and NRM to consider implementing to improve their effectiveness. These recommendations covered a range of issues, however focused on the need for increased data accuracy, accessibility and exchange, alongside improved compliance mechanisms and enforcement.

Likely impacts: The Auditor General’s report is shining light on issues in need of urgent attention. It remains to be seen what impacts the finding will have. It is our hope that the report will lead to reform of the systems that the EHP and NRM currently have in place. If the recommendations were implemented effectively, the standards for monitoring and supervising industry would be improved, meaning that the respective departments can be more proactive in their management of the waste and mining industries. This in turn should have the effect of reducing the number of breaches and need to prosecute. This would restore credence in EHP and NRM’s ability to control the mining and waste sector and this should result in less harm to the environment.

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Accompanying image from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, used under the following license. Image modified from its original state.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: September 26, 2018.

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