As part of the implementation of South Australia’s new public health regime – the centrepiece of which is the South Australian Public Health Act 2011 (SAPH Act) – the State Government has announced that the existing regulations under the Public and Environmental Health Act 1987 (SA) will be re-made in broadly similar terms under the SAPH Act.
There will, however be some changes under the new regulations. The changes to the general regulations will be minimal, and will not affect Local Government operations. The changes to the Legionella regulations will also be minimal, with the only practical effect on Local Government being the shift from specific notices to the new general notice power under the SAPH Act.
The changes to the wastewater regulations will be more extensive. The new wastewater regulations will be the manifestation of the long-running review of wastewater regulation conducted by SA Health, the Local Government Association and South Australian councils.
Aspects of councils’ regulatory powers are to be altered under the new wastewater regulations. The new general notice power of the SAPH Act provides councils with a more flexible tool for seeking compliance, and replaces the more limited ‘maintenance order’ power. Furthermore, a new power of ‘inspection and testing’ will be established under the new wastewater regulations, giving authorised officers the ability to compulsorily enter premises – along with such assistants as may be necessary – and undertake an inspection and/or test in relation to a wastewater system. Councils will also gain the power to require operators of wastewater systems which could adversely affect public or environmental health to provide an expert report on any matter.
Administrative processes are also altered, including more stringent requirements in relation to applications. Additionally, the technical aspects of the new wastewater regulations will reflect new technologies and national standards.
The new general Legionella and wastewater regulations are expected to come into operation on 31 May 2013. The changes to the public health regulations are intended to be minimal in order to assist the transition to the SAPH Act and the most significant changes – being the changes to the wastewater regulations – have already been the subject of extensive consultation and training with Local Government.
However, councils should note that a formal review of the regulations under the SAPH Act is planned once the SAPH Act is fully implemented, meaning that more substantial changes to the regulations will occur at some point in the future.