NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Compliance

About us

The department’s Compliance team works with communities, local councils across NSW, as well as state and federal government agencies, to ensure state significant development (SSD) and state significant infrastructure (SSI) projects across NSW meet conditions of their approval.

These conditions often include the need to regularly monitor, audit and report on compliance. It may also include the need to commission independent experts to audit compliance, assess and recommend improvements to environmental performance.

We also educate stakeholders on our compliance work, investigate potential breaches, and carry out necessary enforcements. These can take the form of negotiating practical solutions to issuing penalty notices and criminal prosecutions.

Our compliance policy and associated guidelines provide information about how we go about our work and help to guide the work of our compliance officers.

Allegations of non-compliance with conditions of consent relating to the following approval types will be investigated by the department:

✔ State Significant Infrastructure (SSI)

✔ State Significant Development (SSD)

✔ Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI).


Examples of matters that will not be investigated by the department:

X  Allegations of non-compliance with development consents issued by local councils (please contact your local council)

X  Complaints, or allegations of non-compliance, relating to Complying Development Certificates (CDC’s) issued by private certifiers (please contact your local council)

X  Results of investigations carried out by local councils (please contact your local council)

X  Approval process for developments approved by councils (please contact your local council)

X  Neighbour disputes

X  Issues that are the responsibility of other government regulators, including:

- NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for pollution-related matters

- SafeWork NSW for safety-related matters

- Natural Resource Access Regulator (NRAR) for illegal water activity matters

X  Complaints relating to allegations of misconduct by local councils or IPAC in the development assessment process. These complaints should be referred to ICAC or the NSW Ombudsman.

Compliance policies and guidelines

You can also find a summary of the team’s past and present activities under Compliance Activity.

Frequently asked questions

What enforcement options are available to the Department?

If a company is found to have breached its conditions, our compliance officers consider taking enforcement and other actions such as:

  • prosecution attracting fines up to $5 million and criminal convictions for the most serious offences
  • issuing fines up to $15,000 and official cautions
  • issuing orders
  • accepting enforceable undertakings
  • negotiating practical solutions.

See Inspections and enforcements for activities that are reported monthly.

Who is responsible to ensure all conditions of approval are met?

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

How does the Department educate industry and community on its work?

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.

How does the Department assess a proponent's level of compliance?

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; and
  • conduct remote monitoring using drones and aerial photography.
How does the Department investigate breaches?

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.

How does the Department determine the significance of any breach?

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.

What is the community's role in compliance?

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 has breached its conditions of consent you can contact us and we will undertake an investigation. To report a suspected breach please contact the Compliance team on 1300 305 695 or via email.

The Department regularly publishes reports on its Compliance activities.

What is expected from complainants and what to expect from the Department in return?

It is important that people who make complaints regarding alleged noncompliance 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; and
  • providing them with the outcome of the Department’s investigation.
How long will it take for the Department to investigate a complaint?

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.

How does the Department protect a complainant's privacy?
  • 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
    • will not provide a response to the complainant.
What are the common areas of non-compliance?

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
  • clearing of vegetation or works being undertaken outside the approved boundaries or failing to submit environmental rehabilitation bonds.
Responsibilities and powers of compliance officers?

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.

Where are the compliance teams located?

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

Compliance officers are in Sydney, Wollongong, Queanbeyan, Singleton, Newcastle and Murwillumbah.

Where can I find out more?

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.

Lodge a complaint

We work closely with the community, local councils and other state and federal government agencies to investigate potential breaches relating to state significant development (SSD) and state significant infrastructure (SSI) project approvals.

Allegations of non-compliance with conditions of consent relating to the following approval types will be investigated by the Department:

✔ State Significant Infrastructure (SSI)

✔ State Significant Development (SSD)

✔ Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI)


Examples of matters that will not be investigated by the department:

X  Allegations of non-compliance with development consents issued by local councils (please contact your local council)

X  Complaints, or allegations of non-compliance, relating to Complying Development Certificates (CDC’s) issued by private certifiers (please contact your local council)

X  Results of investigations carried out by local councils (please contact your local council)

X  Approval process for developments approved by councils (please contact your local council)

X  Neighbour disputes

X  Issues that are the responsibility of other government regulators, including:

- NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for pollution-related matters

- SafeWork NSW for safety-related matters

- Natural Resource Access Regulator (NRAR) for illegal water activity matters

X  Complaints relating to allegations of misconduct by local councils or IPAC in the development assessment process. These complaints should be referred to ICAC or the NSW Ombudsman.

Contact us to report a potential breach.

Contact us

Page last updated: 06/12/2022