A NSW Government website


Compliance of major projects

Major Projects are large developments and/or infrastructure that significantly affect the state. Because of their scale, strict conditions are in place to protect the environment and local communities from potential harm.

We monitor and enforce consent conditions and investigate potential breaches. Our actions range from negotiating practical solutions to issuing penalty notices and criminal prosecutions.

Lodge a compliance complaint


Your local council is responsible for complaints about most smaller scale development consents and construction certificates. It is generally the best place to start for most neighbourhood disputes.

To report pollution, contact the Environment Protection Authority.

To report illegal pumping of water or pollution of waterways, contact the Natural Resources Access Regulator.

To report unsafe work practices on site, contact SafeWork NSW.

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:

  • prosecuting, which can attract up to $5 million in fines and a criminal conviction for the most serious offences
  • issuing a fine of up to $15,000 or official cautions
  • issuing development control order
  • accepting an enforceable undertaking
  • negotiating a practical solution.

Visit Inspections and enforcements for details of our activities.

Who is responsible for ensuring all conditions of an approval are met?

The proponent of the development or the person carrying out the work is responsible.

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

The Compliance team plays an important role in educating development proponents, the community and other stakeholders about our compliance functions.

We hold education sessions to:

  • reinforce expectations
  • better understand industry-specific issues and the systems used to ensure compliance
  • listen to community concerns
  • provide feedback on sector or company performance
  • promote best practice across all industry sectors.
How does the department assess a development proponent’s level of compliance?

To ensure proponents are complying with their strict conditions of consent, the Compliance team:

  • conducts announced and unannounced inspections and surveillance
  • undertakes targeted audits involving other regulators
  • reviews reports required by the consent, such as annual reports and independent audits
  • conducts remote monitoring using drones and aerial photography.
How does the department investigate breaches?

When we receive a report of a suspected breach, we will analyse all available information. We may then conduct an inspection or ask the proponent for more information.

Our officers can use their formal investigative powers to gather relevant evidence, 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.

If we identify a breach, we will determine our enforcement action (in line with our Compliance policy (PDF, 388 KB).

How does the department determine the significance of any breach?

Factors to determine the significance of the breach are the degree of harm, including the potential for harm, and the impact on the integrity of the planning system. The culpability of the offender, their performance history and motivation will also be considered.

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

What is the community’s role in compliance?

The community plays a significant role in assisting our Compliance team to undertake its functions.

If you suspect a development has breached its conditions of consent, you can contact us and we will investigate.

To report a suspected breach, contact the Compliance team:

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

It is important that a person who makes a complaint about alleged non-compliance with conditions of consent understands what they can expect while we are dealing with it. They also need to understand what we expect from them.

A complainant’s responsibilities include:

  • clearly identifying the issues in their complaint
  • providing all relevant information about their complaint – to the best of their ability and at the earliest opportunity
  • cooperating with any requests for information, enquiries or investigations
  • acting honestly
  • treating the people handling their complaint with courtesy and respect.

Our responsibilities include:

  • handling complaints professionally, fairly and efficiently
  • treating complainants with respect
  • advising a complainant about:
    • whether their complaint relates to our functions
    • the likely timeframes for investigating their complaint and providing a response
    • the type and level of involvement the complainant will have in the investigation
    • the outcome of our investigation.
How long will it take for the department to investigate a complaint?

Once we receive a complaint, we will launch an investigation and contact the complainant within 21 days to seek more information or to provide an update on progress.

The length of time for the investigation will depend on the nature and complexity of the complaint. Some complaints can be investigated quickly while others will take up to 12 months. We will try to update the complainant as the matter progresses.

How does the department protect a complainant’s privacy?

We are committed to protecting the privacy of complainants and won’t release their details without their consent.

When a complaint is made, we will seek consent from the complainant to provide their details and the details of their complaint to:

  • other government agencies (if the case also involves another government agency)
  • the proponent of the development (we will only do this if it will help us to investigate and resolve the matter).

Some complainants may wish to remain anonymous. In these circumstances, we will:

  • decide whether or not to investigate the matter
  • not advise the complainant of the outcome.
What are the common areas of non-compliance?

Common areas where we may either consider issuing a penalty notice or prosecuting include:

  • starting construction or other activities before an approval has been granted or where management plans must first be submitted and/or approved by the Secretary
  • failing to honour commitments in approved management plans
  • failing to undertake monitoring required by management plans or monitoring programs
  • failing to undertake required consultation with other relevant government agencies in relation to management plans or other approval requirements
  • exceeding production limits
  • clearing vegetation beyond the approved boundaries
  • undertaking works beyond the approved boundaries
  • failing to submit environmental rehabilitation bonds.
What responsibilities and powers do compliance officers have?

Our investigation officers have a number of powers to proactively conduct site inspections and audits, and to investigate issue-specific potential breaches of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW).

All officers receive specialised training in their duties and obligations.

Where are our compliance teams located?

Our officers work across NSW to ensure that major projects comply with their conditions of consent.

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

More information

For more information about compliance: