Monitoring and enforcement

Both governments and proponents have responsibility for monitoring the impacts of building and development on the environment and heritage. You can also monitor the impacts of building and development on the environment, such as water and air quality.

Before reporting suspected breaches of environmental laws you will require evidence. It is also important to remember that the law contains certain exceptions and defences to offences. The most common defence is that a person has a permit or licence to take the action which would otherwise be an offence, such as an environment protection licence (a licence to pollute). If you are unsure about whether an action is an offence or not, call the Environment Line on 131 555.

National and State enforcement authorities can issue stop work notices in many cases where unauthorised activities are occurring that harm the environment and heritage.

    • Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
    • Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a place that is listed on the World, Commonwealth, or National heritage lists.
  • Report a suspected breach of NSW environmental law, contact the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
    • Carrying out work to protect property affected by coastal erosion, unless the work is authorised.
    • Damaging protected areas or damaging or removing things within protected areas without consent. See our Fact Sheet for more information about protected areas in NSW.
    • Harming native animals, including game birds. Picking or harming native plants may also be an offence. See our Fact Sheet for more information about how native plants and animals are protected in NSW.
    • Carrying out building or development work without the required approval.
    • Carrying out building or development work without the required approval.
    • Damaging fish habitats, such as saltmarsh, mangroves, and marine vegetation.
    • Illegally taking certain species, such as abalone and rock lobster.
    • Taking or possessing fish that are too small or too large.
    • Taking or possessing more than the permitted number or volume.
    • Possessing unlawful fishing gear, such as spear guns in prohibited areas.
    • Fishing or diving in grey nurse shark critical habitat.
    • Fishing without the required recreational or commercial fishing licence.
    • Killing or injuring a native species in a Commonwealth reserve without authorisation.
    • Taking an action that will have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
  • Report harm of a State protected species to the Environment Line 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
    • Damaging critical habitat. The Office of Environment and Heritage is responsible for the listing of critical habitat. There are currently 4 critical habitats on the NSW list.
  • Report land-based pollution to the Environment Line 131 555.
  • Report sea-based pollution to NSW Maritime, including for one of the following offences in NSW coastal waters (up to three nautical miles from the shore):
    • Discharging of oil or oily mixtures, garbage and sewage from ships.
    • Illegal dumping.
    • Discharging oil or oily mixtures, noxious or harmful substances, untreated sewage, or garbage into the sea.
    • Dumping of waste without a permit.

Under certain environmental laws, any person has the right to bring proceedings in a Court to remedy or restrain a breach. For breaches of national environmental law, this is the Federal Court. In NSW, it is mainly to the Land and Environment Court. See How can I have my say? for more information. You should contact the EDO NSW Environmental Law Line to request some initial legal advice if you would like to take this step.