Last updated 8 February 2023

Environmental Law in Queenslandclick to download a pdf of this chapter
Planning and Development
Development Assessment
Making a Development Application
Opposing a Development Application
Environmentally Relevant Activities
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
Miscellaneous Development
Petroleum (Including Coal Seam Gas)
Offshore Minerals and Petroleum
Vegetation Management
Nature Conservation
Biosecurity, Weeds, Pests and Invasive Species
Environmental Harm
Climate Change
Cultural Heritage
Taking Action to Protect the Environment
Support for Taking Action to Protect the Environment
Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation writs

Many laws exist to protect our environment by controlling urban development, mining, pollution and other activities. The environmental legal system is the system of laws and administrative structures that regulate the impact of humans on the natural environment, aim to preserve quality of life and protect cultural heritage.

The different parts of the Queensland environmental legal system are linked, forming a safety net to protect the environment and to acknowledge the interconnectedness of environmental problems. For example, expansion of agriculture in an area may involve clearing of vegetation and increased demand for water, causing reduced flows of freshwater to coastal wetlands and fish habitats, which then impacts on fisheries. The idea that many parts of the environment are interconnected is an important aspect of the environmental legal system and requires good environmental planning and management.

The legal system attempts to deal with this interconnectedness through integrated planning and development approval systems. This can mean the system and laws within it become very complex. The heart of this complexity is not necessarily poor law making but the complexity of the problem that the laws are grappling with.

While the legal system attempts to deal with environmental problems in integrated ways, it often fails to succeed and there are gaps, overlaps and inconsistencies within it. Politics can also greatly influence the decision-making process of environmental issues.

A central objective of the environmental legal system for decades has been ecologically sustainable development. This was defined in the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development as ‘using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes … are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased’. This is intended to integrate economic, social and environmental considerations but, in reality, economic issues typically still dominate decision making at all levels of government.