Under the environment amendment bill, councils will manage nuisance and minor water pollution, while the EPA will focus on more serious cases.
Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara said the laws would enable more immediate action to prevent and clean up environmental harm.
“One of the issues that has to be dealt with when you are acting quickly when there has been some sort of environmental spill is to get in and make things happen, not be stuck worrying about whose responsibility it is or whose fault it is,” he told parliament.
“It simply is a case that if we are going to reduce costs in these circumstances then the earlier we can begin remediation work the better and afterwards we can let costs follow the chain of causation as necessary.”
The Opposition argued the laws would further burden councils with the costs of regulation, and called for the clarification of differing roles and responsibilities.
Mr McNamara said the amendments followed a five-year consultation process with local government, and councils would be able to autonomously set polluter fees and penalties to fully recover their costs.
“If people pollute, whether deliberately or not, councils should be able to recover costs from them if the circumstances permit. We all understand that accidents can happen, however, the bill will give councils appropriate penalties and enforcement tools to manage this area.
“This bill represents, I think, a high-water mark in state government working with local government to identify gaps in legislation and to identify opportunities to improve environmental monitoring and outcomes for all of the people we represent,” he said.
The amendment bill also sets up an independent scientific advisory committee to appraise the environmental impacts of horse riding on the south-east’s trail network, announced by the Government last December.
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