Skip to main content
  • Share:

hunter project compliance inspection 

Frequently asked questions

Compliance Fact Sheet

 

The Department of Planning and Environment’s compliance team works with communities across NSW to ensure state significant development and state significant infrastructure projects meet the strict conditions included as part of their consent.  The compliance team works closely with other government regulators to ensure a whole of government approach. The team uses a risk-based approach to ensure its monitoring activities target projects that are assessed to be of higher risk.

 

Development consents often require proponents to monitor, audit and report regularly on compliance. The Department then reviews and responds to these reports. Consent conditions may also require proponents to commission independent experts to audit compliance, assess and recommend improvements to environmental performance.

The Department’s compliance team does not:

  • Enforce consents for developments such as houses, pools, high rise buildings and other developments approved by local councils. These consents are the responsibility of the respective local council to enforce;
  • Enforce licences that are regulated by other teams, including:
    • Environmental Protection Licences - NSW EPA (131 555)
    • Mining leases; - Division of Resources and Geoscience (1300 736 122)
    • Water licences. - DPI Water (1800 353 104)

The compliance team works closely with the community, local councils and other state and federal government agencies to monitor state significant development and infrastructure projects, investigate potential breaches and carry out enforcement where necessary.

Our officers work with communities and industry across NSW to ensure that development benefits NSW while providing protecting residents and the environment.

Enforcement can range from improving compliance through:

  • voluntary undertakings;
  • issuing official cautions and penalty notices; and
  • prosecution for the most serious offences.  

Enforcement activities are also reported monthly and are viewable here.

 

The onus of ensuring compliance with all conditions of consent is on the proponent or the person carrying out the development.

The compliance team plays an important role in educating proponents, the community and other stakeholders about the Department’s compliance functions.

Education sessions allow the Department to reinforce expectations, better understand industry-specific issues, the systems used to ensure compliance, listen to community concerns, provide feedback on sector or company performance and promote best practice across all industry sectors.

In order to ensure proponents are complying with their strict conditions of consent the compliance team:

  • Conducts announced and unannounced inspections as well as surveillance
  • Undertakes targeted audits involving other regulators, where relevant
  • Reviews reports required by the consent such as annual reports and independent audits
  • Conduct remote monitoring using drones and aerial photography

When the Department receives information about a suspected breach, it will conduct an analysis of all available information.  This analysis may be followed up with an inspection or a request to the proponent for more information. 

Officers can use their formal investigative powers to gather evidence relevant to the investigations, request information or conduct formal interviews. This preliminary assessment may provide enough information to establish whether a breach has occurred, or is likely to have occurred.

Based on that information, the Department may choose to proceed with an enforcement response or determine no response is required.

Where a breach is identified, the Department will consider the relevant information and decide on any enforcement action consistent with the Compliance Policy. Natural justice, also known as procedural fairness, is a fundamental principle considered by the Department.

Factors to determine the significance of the breach are the degree of harm and the culpability of the offender. The degree of harm includes the potential for harm and the impact on the integrity of the planning system. Culpability includes performance history and motivation.

Suspected breaches will then be classified as low, medium or high. Enforcement options are then considered.

  • Penalty notice - The Department can issue the highest on-the-spot fines in the country for breaches of conditions. Fines can range from $3,000 to $15,000, based on such factors as the date and nature of the offence and 
  • Prosecutions - Companies can also be prosecuted in court for breaching conditions, with the most severe breaches attracting fines of up to $5 million and criminal convictions. 

The community has a right to expect that a development is conducted in accordance with the conditions of consent. 

The community plays a significant role in assisting the Department’s compliance team undertake its functions. If you suspect a development is breaching its conditions of consent you can contact us and we will conduct an investigation. You can report suspected breaches by filling in the online form here. You can also contact the compliance team by calling Department on 1300 305 695 or emailing compliance@planning.nsw.gov.au.

The Department regularly publishes reports on its activities.  You can sign up for our monthly report by emailing compliance@planning.nsw.gov.au.

It is important that people who make complaints regarding alleged non  compliance with conditions of consent understand what they can expect from the Department in dealing with their compliant in addition to understanding what the Department expects from them.

The responsibilities of a complainant includes:

  • clearly identifying their issues of complaint;
  • provide all relevant information about their complaint – to the best of their ability and at the earliest opportunity;
  • cooperate with any requests for information, inquiries or investigations;
  • act honestly; and
  • treat the people handling their complaint with courtesy and respect.
The responsibilities of the Department include:
  • handling complaints professionally, fairly and efficiently;
  • treating complainants with respect;
  • advising the complainant whether their complaint relates to the Department’s functions;
  • the likely timeframes for investigating their complaint and providing a response;
  • the type and level of involvement the complainant will have in the process of investigating their complaint;
  • providing them with the outcome of the Department’s investigation.

Once a complaint is received, the Department will commence an investigation and contact the complainant within 14 days to seek further information or to provide an update on progress. 

The length of time a complaint will take to investigate will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the complaint. Some complaints can be investigated quickly while others will require more detailed investigation and can take up to 12 months to conclude. The Department will endeavour to provide updates to the complainant as the matter progresses.

  • The Department is committed to protecting the privacy of complainants. The Department does not release complainant’s details to anyone without the consent of the complainant.  
  • When a complaint is made, the Department will seek consent from the complainant to as whether:
    • they consent to having their details and the details of their complaint provided to other government agencies (in cases where the area of responsibility investigation of the complaint lies with another government agency);
    • their details and the details of their complaint can be provided to the proponent of the development. This will only be done when the provision of those details will assist the Department’s investigation and resolution of the matter.  
  • Some complainants may wish to remain anonymous. In these circumstances the Department:
    • may or may not investigate the matter; and
    • will not provide a response to the complainant.

Common non compliances by proponents (where either penalty notices or prosecution may be considered) include:

  • commencement of construction or activities occurring prior to an approval being granted or where management plans are required to be submitted and/or approved by the Secretary prior to carrying out the development;
  • not implementing commitments contained within approved management plans;
  • not undertaking monitoring required in management plans or monitoring programs;
  • failing to undertake required consultation with other relevant government agencies in relation to management plans or other approval requirements;
  • where production limits are exceeded; and
  • clearing of vegetation or works being undertaken outside the approved boundaries or failing to submit environmental rehabilitation bonds.

Departmental investigation officers have a number of powers to conduct site inspections and audits on a proactive basis - or to investigate issue-specific potential breaches of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. All investigation officers also receive specialised training regarding their duties and obligations under the relevant legislation.

Our officers work across NSW to ensure that state significant developments and infrastructure projects comply with their conditions of consent.
  

Compliance officers are located in Sydney, Wollongong, Queanbeyan and Singleton:

  • Metropolitan team (Sydney)
  • Northern team (Singleton)
  • Southern team (Wollongong & Queanbeyan)

To find out more:

  • Email: compliance@planning.nsw.gov.au
  • Call 1300 305 695
  • If English isn’t your first language, call 131 450. Ask for an interpreter in your language and then request to be connected to Service NSW on 1300 305 695.

Please note: some of the PDFs on this page contain large amounts of rich content and may take some time to download.

Page last updated: 24/07/2017