If you live or do business in Victoria, the answer is yes.
On 1 July 2021, the sweeping amendments to the Victorian environmental regulatory framework, which have been the subject of much discussion over the past few years, will finally come into effect.
The new environmental laws change the way environmental risks are dealt with under the Environment Protection Act 2017 (Vic) (the EP Act) and how breaches are managed by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).
These laws focus on the prevention of environmental damage by introducing a General Environmental Duty (GED) on all Victorians. So, it is important that you and your business are aware of the changes and what you need to do in order to comply.
This is particularly so, given that a breach of the GED could lead to civil or criminal penalties, even if you have not actually caused any harm – the duty is breached whenever there is a risk of harm that is not being proportionally managed.
The new GED should be familiar if you conduct a business in Victoria as it is modelled on the equivalent duty in Victoria’s occupational health and safety legislation. The process of identifying hazards and risks is very similar, as is the requirement to implement ‘reasonably practicable measures’ to eliminate or reduce those risks.
The EPA has released guidance material for different industries about how the GED can be complied with in the relevant industry and gives examples for industry-specific risks and how they can be managed.
Further, the Final Draft of the Regulations provides significant additional detail and prescribed information to support the interpretation of the EP Act.
Meg Lee, a partner in our Melbourne office, has set out a detailed description of the new laws and what you need to do in order to comply with them in her article, ‘Countdown to Victoria’s new era in environmental law: are you ready?’.
Lexology, 16 June 2021