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Crown Solicitor's Office

Update on management of contaminated land by government agencies

Nancy Foster, CSO Solicitor

On 10 July 2014 the New South Wales Auditor-General presented the following Performance Audit report to Parliament: Managing contaminated sites: Environment Protection Authority, Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services.

The audit assessed how well the risks associated with contaminated sites are being managed. It examined:

  • the management of contaminated sites by government agencies on their land.

The audit focused on the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services ("DTIRIS"), which is the largest landholder by area and extensively involved in the management of a range of contaminated sites. This detailed examination was supplemented by a survey of over 30 large landholding government agencies in New South Wales and their management arrangements for dealing with contaminated sites.

The audit report concluded that procedures for managing contaminated sites vary widely across the major landholding government agencies surveyed and that most agencies could manage contaminated sites better.

Key recommendations

Whilst the recommendations of the audit report are directed to DTIRIS and the EPA, the audit report recommended that other government agencies should consider the following:

"DTIRIS should (and other government agencies should consider):

  1. by December 2014, ensure comprehensive, risk-based policies and procedures are in place to identify and manage their contaminated sites including the purchasing, selling, leasing or transferring of land;
  2. by December 2015, develop a comprehensive plan for assessing and managing their known and suspected contaminated sites including prioritisation processes, resources, timeframes, and notification of sites that meet the reporting requirements under s. 60 of the CLM Act;
  3. by December 2014, ensure that the impact of contamination is reliably measured and appropriately accounted for in the financial report as it is identified."

The Performance Audit Report is available from the NSW Audit Office website at: http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/news/managing-contaminated-sites