The role of local, State and the Commonwealth Government

State government

Most environmental and planning laws affecting Tasmania are made by the State government. For information about how these laws are made, click here.

Under these laws, State government agencies are responsible for a wide range of environmentally-relevant activities, including:

  • managing Crown land
  • development and maintenance of significant infrastructure, such as highways, railways and ports
  • assessing large projects, such as Projects of State Significance
  • issuing mining leases
  • assessing the environmental impact of Level 2 activities
  • managing the Tasmanian Heritage Register and Tasmanian Aboriginal Sites Index
  • developing management and recovery plans for protected areas and threatened species
  • setting targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction
  • taking enforcement action where significant environmental harm has occurred.

Local government

Local councils (or ‘planning authorities’) also play a very significant role in environmental protection and land use planning. Councils are generally your first port of call if you are affected by a development activity or a pollution problem in your local area.

Examples of activities that councils are generally responsible for include:

  • developing planning schemes to set standards such as building heights, siting of developments near sensitive areas, setbacks from waterways etc [note, the State government is currently working to introduce a Tasmanian Planning Scheme, however local councils will remain responsible for developing Local Planning Schedules]
  • assessing development proposals for small operations (Level 1 activities).  Where small operations may cause environmental harm, the council may consult with relevant State government agencies, such as Mineral Resources Tasmania and the EPA, before making land use decisions.
  • imposing conditions to regulate pollution (including dust, smoke, noise and liquid emissions)
  • developing by-laws to deal with specific issues (such as keeping chickens in residential areas, activities in Council reserves or operating hours for outdoor festivals)
  • taking enforcement action where permit conditions are not complied with (see also “Planning and Development“).

For a list of Councils, click here.

Commonwealth government

The Commonwealth government is responsible making laws on national issues.  The scope of these laws relies on the powers under the Constitution, as well as any laws necessary to implement our obligations under any international agreement that Australia has signed.  These agreements cover topics such as World Heritage, climate change, fishing, marine pollution, recording of pollutants, remediation of land, whaling activities and biodiversity management.

For information on how Commonwealth laws are made or amended, click here.

The key piece of Commonwealth environmental legislation is the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  Under that Act, the Commonwealth Environment Minister is required to assess any proposed actions with the potential to impact upon “matters of national environmental significance”. These include:

  • World Heritage areas
  • Wetlands of international significance (known as ‘Ramsar wetlands’)
  • National heritage places
  • Nationally listed threatened species and ecological communities
  • Nuclear actions
  • Migratory species (including birds and cetaceans, such as whales)
  • Commonwealth marine areas
  • Large mining or coal seam gas projects likely to impact on water resources

⊗ The Commonwealth government is currently progressing a “one stop shop” policy, designed to delegate assessment responsibility in relation to matters of national environmental significance to State and local governments under accredited bilateral agreements.  For more information about the one-stop shop proposal, click here.

To read why EDOs of Australia do not support the one-stop shop proposal, click here.


Who does what?

Issue Relevant law Who should you contact
  • Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1999
  • For Level 1 activities, Environmental Health Officer at your local council
  • For Level 2 activities (or if you don’t know what is causing the pollution), use the EPA pollution incidents and complaints hotline
Breach of planning permit conditions
  • Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993
  • For level 1 activities, planning officer at your local council
  • For level 2 activities, EPA
  • Litter Act 2007
Public health issues (eg water pollution, leakage of waste materials dust emissions)
  • Local Government Act 1993
  • Public Health Act 1997
  • For minor issues, Environmental Health Officer at your local council
  • For more serious issues, Director of Public Health
Smoke emissions
  • Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (NB: Smoke Regulations expected to be introduced in 2019)
  • Local Council by-laws
  • Local council (check their website for details of the relevant officers)
  • If the emissions are from an industrial operation, contact the EPA

Note:  the EPA has a smoke management programme aimed at reducing emissions from planned burns and domestic fireplaces.  Contact their incident response team to complain about burning incidents.

Discharge of oil, garbage and sewage from boats
  • Pollution of Waters by Oil & Noxious Substances Act 1987
  • Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994
  • Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Noise) Regulations 2016
  • Where the noise creates a neighbourhood nuisance, the Police
  • Where the noise involves a breach of permit conditions, the local council or the EPA (depending on the nature of the operation)
Contamination of land
  • Chapter 5A, Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994
Agricultural spraying
  • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1995
  • Primary Industries Activities Protection Act 1995
Parks and reserves
  • National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002
  • Parks and Wildlife (contact the local ranger to report incidents)
  • Coordinator General (tourism development EOI proposals)
  • Marine Farming Planning Act 1995
  • Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 
  • Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994
  • Marine Farming Division, DPIPWE (lease and licence, amendments to marine farming development plans)
  • EPA Tasmania (environmental licences)
Heritage issues
  • Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995
  • Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975
  • Heritage Tasmania (administers planning applications for listed places, public information, assists the Council)
  • Tasmanian Heritage Council (assesses nominations to Heritage Register and applications for developments impacting on heritage places)
  • Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania (manages Sites Index, reviews applications under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, advises Minister on cultural heritage issues)
Forestry operations
  • Forest Practices Act 1985
  • Forest Management Act 2013
  • Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993
  • Local councils (developing and enforcing planning schemes, assessing development applications)
  • Tasmanian Planning Commission (reviews planning schemes, amendments, planning directives, and State Policies and Tasmanian Planning Policies)
  • Planning Policy Unit (working on the development of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, Planning Policies, and related legislation)
  • RMPAT (information about development appeals)
Climate Change
  • Climate Change (State Actions) Act 2008
  • Climate Change Office (developing and implementing government policy to achieve emissions reduction targets)
Drafting legislation
Local government
  • Local Government Act 1993
Threatened Species
  • Threatened Species Protection Act 1995
Dams, water licences
  •  Water Management Act 1999
Crown land
  •  Crown Land Act 1976
  • Mineral Resources Development Act 1995
  • Mineral Resources Tasmania (assessing applications for exploration licences and mining leases, monitoring compliance, liaising with EPA on assessment of Level 2 activities)