Planning and Environment


Regulation of water pollution in drinking water catchments and illegal solid waste disposal

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (Act), the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is the regulatory authority for the more significant waste generating activities which are scheduled in the Act and which require environmental protection licences issued by EPA.

Local councils have regulatory responsibilities for such activities in their local government areas which either are unlicenced, or fall below specific thresholds listed in the Act. For water pollution, EPA is the sole regulatory authority under the Act.

Disposal of waste is considered illegal when deposited on land or into water without correct approvals such as environmental protection licences, or where construction or demolition material is used as landfill without approval. Water pollution occurs when any matter is introduced into waterways which change the physical, chemical or biological condition of the water. Water quality objectives for drinking water catchments are generally set by relevant bodies responsible for those catchments. These include water authorities such as WaterNSW and Hunter Water, as well as local councils.

The audit will assess the effectiveness of EPA’s regulatory response to water pollution in drinking water catchments, and illegal solid waste disposal.

We will address this by assessing whether EPA effectively:

  • assesses and monitors water pollution in drinking water catchments for EPA regulated activities defined in the Act
  • manages breaches of environmental protection licences related to water pollution in drinking water catchments
  • manages water pollution incidents, other than licence breaches, in drinking water catchments
  • responds to illegal solid waste disposal through its regulatory role under the Act
  • achieved the priorities and objectives outlined in the NSW Illegal Dumping Strategy 2014-16
  • addressed recommendations made in the June 2017 ICAC report titled 'Investigation into a Regional Dumping Squad Officer and Others' which were not asbestos waste specific

To better understand any relevant issues local councils may be experiencing regarding EPA’s regulatory response to water pollution in drinking water catchments and illegal solid waste disposal, the Audit Office is seeking feedback from local councils to the following questions:

  • Has EPA’s response to instances of water pollution affecting water quality in council controlled drinking water catchments or town water supplies assisted your council?
  • Has EPA’s response to illegal solid waste disposal for which EPA has regulatory responsibility assisted your council?

We anticipate that the audit report will be tabled in parliament in late June 2018 



The Waste Less, Recycle More Initiative aims to transform waste and recycling in NSW. It includes grant programs for new and upgraded infrastructure, community recycling centres for household problem wastes, business recycling, market development, programs to tackle illegal dumping and litter, as well as a range of programs to support local councils and regional groups. Waste Less, Recycle More is the largest waste and recycling funding program in Australia. It was initially a five year program (from July 2012 to June 2017) designed to stimulate investment in infrastructure to meet the ambitious recycling, illegal dumping and littering targets adopted by the NSW Government’s NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one.

Up to July 2016, the initiative had awarded more than $292 million to 822 projects. In October 2016, the NSW Government announced the extension of the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative with a further $337 million allocated over 4 years from 2017 to 2021.

This audit may review whether the allocation of funds under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative is being managed efficiently and effectively.

Effectiveness of Trusts in the Planning and Environment cluster

Trusts in the planning and environment cluster fund projects that rehabilitate or regenerate the environment, promote environmental education and sustainability, as well as managing important sites such as Centennial Park and the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.

This audit may examine the role and effectiveness of trusts in the planning and environment cluster, including how they monitor and measure the achievement of intended outcomes.

Planning for new/revitalised suburbs

The Department of Planning and Environment has projected population growth of 1.7 million in Greater Sydney by 2036. There is increasing community concern that the impact of population change and growth comes at a cost to the quality of life in cities, and that new development is not delivering the infrastructure that these new populations will need.

Our audit will look at a small number of case studies in new and revitalised communities to assess whether the demand for new infrastructure was anticipated effectively, whether the infrastructure needed to meet this demand was delivered.

Newcastle Urban Transformation and Transport Project (Revitalising Newcastle)

The Newcastle Urban Transformation and Transport Program (Revitalising Newcastle) involves around $650 million government funding for a range of urban renewal and transport activities, including a new light rail and development of parts of the former rail corridor.

The audited agencies are Hunter Development Corporation (Department of Planning and Environment) and Transport for NSW. Areas of Newcastle City Council responsibility are outside the scope of this audit. 

This audit will assess the effectiveness of the agencies’ approach to governance and consultation in the Revitalising Newcastle program. It will also assess whether the light rail is an economical option for achieving the objectives of the program, and whether the best value has been obtained for the use of the former rail corridor land.

We plan to table the audit in NSW Parliament in December 2018.

Affordable housing

Description pending.

Strategic release framework for coal

Description pending.