Environmental Law Australia

Structure of this eBook

This eBook begins by defining an environmental legal system and explaining its basic structure, terms, concepts, institutions and obligations.

The four levels of the Australian environmental legal system are then explained:

Within each level the main laws are summarised in alphabetical order.

Only laws of general application are considered. Special development or “franchise” Acts that have been passed for individual developments are not considered because of their isolated operation.¹

A map linking the many parts

The aim here is not to provide a complex, detailed explanation of each part but to provide a simple explanation of the legal system protecting the environment in a logical, coherent way with links to the best available websites for more information.

There are many government websites where detailed information can be found on the major pieces of the Australian environmental legal system.

However, those websites invariably treat themselves as “silos” of information on the laws that the government department responsible for the website administers. There are virtually never links to other websites (particularly for governments at different levels) or explanations of related laws.

This makes it difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the system to see the big picture and find all relevant information. It is easy to get lost in the detailed information available on individual websites.

This eBook aims to fill that gap by explaining and linking the multiple parts of the overall system of laws protecting the environment.

It aims to be a map linking the multiple parts of the system.

Like piecing together a jigsaw

While traditional categories such as “pollution” and “town planning” can be useful for explaining and understanding environmental law at a simplistic level, this eBook’s structure is not based on such categories because modern environmental laws defy them.²

The approach taken here is to treat the environmental legal system as a jigsaw comprised of many different pieces that must be understood and brought together when solving problems. Different pieces of the jigsaw will be relevant for different activities and different places.

The task of anyone working within the environmental legal system is to identify the relevant pieces and apply them to solve the problem at hand.

This eBook is intended to help this problem-solving.




¹ For example, the Townsville Zinc Refinery Act 1996 (Qld) is a special development Act which imposes a special zoning for one refinery. Acts like this are not considered here.

² See Chris McGrath, Does Environmental Law Work? (Lambert Academic Publishing, Saarbrücken, 2010), Ch 3, pp 60-69.