The National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) has released a discussion paper seeking public comment on how it can improve the National Pollution Inventory (NPI).

The paper is of interest to government agencies, industry members, non-government organisations and the public who utilise and/or contribute to the NPI.

What is the National Pollutant Inventory?

Since the 1990s, the NPI has published figures regarding pollution in Australia. Specifically, it tracks data on 93 substances identified as having a possible effect on human health and the environment. These substances are chosen by the NPI Review Steering Committee based on recommendations from a Technical Advisory Panel that considers the substance's potential toxicity, human and environmental health effects and the risk of exposure.

The NPI is established by the National Environment Protection (National Pollutant Inventory) Measure1988 (NPI NEPM). This legislative instrument sets out the environmental objectives of the NPI which broadly include:

  • the maintenance and improvement of ambient air quality and ambient marine, estuarine and fresh water quality;
  • the minimisation of environmental impacts associated with hazardous wastes; and
  • an improvement in the sustainable use of resources.

The discussion paper and review report

The paper invites broad public comment for the purposes of informing the upcoming review of the NPI. According to the paper, submissions may address any issues relating to the NPI. Some of the discussion points in the paper include:

  • assessing how effectively the NPI currently achieves the NPI NEPM's environmental objectives;
  • confirming the appropriateness of the NPI list of substances in light of other international lists and benchmarks; and
  • considering sustainable resourcing models for the effective operation of the NPI, including options for cost recovery.

To guide the content of submissions, the paper includes questions targeted at different focus groups and affected parties.

When submissions close, a review report will be prepared to submit recommendations to the Meeting of Environment Ministers. The review report will assess if, and to what extent, the NPI is contributing to the desired environmental outcomes identified in the NPI NEPM and whether those outcomes remain relevant or should be changed. The NPI NEPM will also be reviewed.

If Ministers agree to any recommendations that warrant legislative change, those recommendations will go through a specific NEPC process. This process includes, amongst other things, compiling a Regulatory Impact Statement and undertaking public consultation.

If you would like to have your say, submissions are due by close of business on Friday 10 August 2018.