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Contaminated Land Management Bill 1997: Background and Commentary

Contaminated Land Management Bill 1997: Background and Commentary

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 24/1997 by Stewart Smith
Contaminated land occurs where hazardous substances are at concentrations above background levels and assessment indicates it poses or is likely to pose an immediate or long term hazard to human health or the environment (page 1). Contamination is usually the result of previous land use, and may be associated among other things with, airports, chemical manufacture and industrial plants, dry cleaning establishments, service stations and horticulture (page 2).

There are no reliable statistics on the extent of contaminated land across NSW. Some estimate that NSW has approximately 60,000 contaminated sites, with some 7000 possibly requiring remediation at a cost of $2 billion. Presently, there is no statutory requirement to report the existence or ownership of a contaminated site.

The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) has developed guidelines for both the management and financial liability of contaminated sites (pages 3-7).

The EPA administers contaminated sites under the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 and the Unhealthy Building Land Act 1990 (pages 7-9). The present legislation dealing with contaminated sites is considered to be limited in its scope and effectiveness. In response to these limitations, the NSW government released a draft exposure of the Contaminated Lands Management Bill 1997 on 15 October 1997. The Bill is divided into 11 Parts and provides specifically for the management of contaminated lands (pages 9-18). Much of the Bill follows from the ANZECC recommendations. In early November 1997, the government also released the draft State Environmental Planning Policy No 55 - Remediation of Land. The policy defines when consent is required to remediate land and requires remediation work to meet certain standards (pages 18-20).