The Western Australian Government Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) has issued a Discussion Paper – Review of the Contaminated Sites Act 2003 – for a final round of public discussions.

The Contaminated Sites Act 2003 (Act) and the Contaminated Sites Regulations (Regulations) took effect in December 2006 and are now due for a statutory five year review.

The DER initially released a Consultation Paper for public comment on issues and requesting feedback on the effectiveness of the legislation.  The responses and online survey results were considered in the preparation of the Discussion Paper.

Submissions for this Discussion Paper close on Monday 24 February 2014.  Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s Perth office can assist clients interested in making a submission.  The DER will treat all submissions as public documents which will be posted on the DER website, however, any confidential information that submitters wish to provide may be provided separately.

The Discussion Paper has identified a number of areas where legislative change is being considered;  in respect of other issues the DER response has been to review its internal policies and procedures for improvement.

The Discussion Paper importantly has raised the role of the Contaminated Sites Committee (CSC) which is a body established by the Act and presently makes decisions on responsibility for remediation, and to grant, cancel, amend or transfer exemption certificates (primary decisions) and to determine appeals against classifications and statutory notices issued by the DER (review decisions).

The Discussion Paper has asked for submissions on whether the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) should assume a role to review the CSC’s primary decisions and to become a review body in place of the CSC in respect of any review decisions.  Under the present Act there are only limited rights to apply to the Supreme Court to review decisions of the CSC.

The Discussion Paper also sets out a number of other areas for public submissions including:

  • Extending a duty to report sites to ‘environmental consultants’ in addition to owners, occupiers and appointed auditors
  • Creating a new classification of ‘Contaminated-Investigation Required’
  • Clarifying disclosure requirements to purchasers, mortgagees and lessees
  • Creating offence provisions for making false or misleading submissions to the CMC