If a person believes that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) has been or will be breached, it is possible for an individual or a conservation group to take legal action to prevent the breach or anticipated breach. Usually this will only be necessary where the Minister has not responded to calls to take enforcement action. For example, an application to the court can be made seeking an injunction to stop illegal work from proceeding.
To bring such an action, the person or group taking the action must be an "interested person". This means that the person or group must have established environmental credentials. Usually, this means having been involved in a series of activities to protect the environment for a period of at least the past two years. If an organisation is bringing the legal action, then the objects of that organisation must include the protection of the environment.
If harm to the environment is about to occur, action must be taken quickly to apply for an injunction. In urgent cases it is best to obtain legal advice from the Environmental Defenders Office or a private lawyer to determine what options are available. Alternatively, you can contact the Department for the Environment to request government intervention. The EPBC Act provides for civil and criminal penalties that can be applied to any breach. Penalties can range with fines up to $550 000 for an individual and $5.5 million for a corporate body.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.