If you become aware of a pollution incident, it is important to notify the responsible parties as soon as possible. In the first instance, you should contact the person / company that you think is causing the pollution – they may not be aware of it and can take quick action to address the problem (for example, the pollution may be caused by a leak in a discharge pipe that can be fixed or the company may not be aware that its boilers had been left on after closing hours).
If the person causing the pollution does not take action, or you do not know who is responsible for the pollution, you should notify the relevant government agency. Click here for information about which agencies regulate particular activities.
For urgent pollution incidents, contact the Pollution Incidents and Complaints Hotline on 1800 005 171. This number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For less urgent matters, email email@example.com.
Your local council may also have an incident hotline for out of hours reports.
What information should you provide?
For pollution incidents, the notification or complaint must include:
- your full name, address and telephone contact details (you can provide information anonymously. However, any prosecution may rely on your witness statements and may not be able to proceed without you providing evidence).
- date, time and duration of the incident
- the type of pollutant or a description of the incident, discharge or emission
- location of the incident, being as specific as possible
- the source and cause of pollution if known
- the extent or size of the area where the pollution is visible
- anything else that is relevant to the incident
If you are able to take any photographs of the incident, these will be useful and can be sent at a later time.
For planning matters, the notification should include:
- your full name, address and telephone contact details
- address at which the activity you are concerned about is being undertaken
- if appropriate, identify the development approval number and any specific conditions
- description of the development and why you think it is unlawful. For example,
- if no permit has been issued
- if the development is in breach of permit conditions – such as being built closer to your property than authorised, removing trees that were supposed to be retained or if the building is higher than the maximum height specified in the conditions)
- photographs of the activity
Under recent changes to planning laws, members of the public may only take civil enforcement action under LUPAA about a planning breach if they have first notified the Council about the matter and requested that Council take action, and Council has not taken any action within 120 days of receiving that request (or has advised that no action will be taken).
Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to take samples for testing. There methodology for taking and storing samples will differ, depending on the nature of the sample and the pollutant that you wish to test for. Some general tips:
- If you plan to have the samples tested yourself, contact a registered laboratory and ask about any requirements for sampling. NATA-accredited facilities are recommended – click here to search for an appropriate facility.
- Contact your local Waterwatch, Coastcare or Landcare group. They may have sampling records for the area, and can often provide advice about sampling techniques.
- Use new glass containers, well washed and rinsed in distilled water.
- Label the sample with time, date, location and conditions (for example, note the weather conditions, whether the sample was taken after rain etc)
- Find out how to store the sample appropriately.
- Send the sample for testing as soon as possible after the sample is collected, using the delivery method required by the laboratory.
** In the event that the EPA / Council investigate, they are likely to do more testing rather than rely on the samples that you collected.
It is important to keep a record of any notification that you make. If you call the hotline, keep notes of the name of the person that you spoke with and anything that is said about further action. Where possible, follow up with an email directly to that person confirming the details of your complaint any any action they agreed to take.
What if no action is taken in response to your complaint?
If you are not happy with the actions taken by (or not taken by) the responsible agency in response to your complaint, you can make a complaint to the Ombudsman or consider taking civil enforcement action yourself. See “Challenging Decisions” for more information about these options.