This office last reported on management of land contamination in 2002. Our report provided impetus for the introduction of new legislation in 2003 to deal with this contamination. Now a decade and a half later we have revisited this important topic to examine progress.
Land contamination has been in the public eye recently. Media reports have highlighted public concern over the risks associated with living near contaminated land and the impact contamination can have on peoples’ health and livelihoods. The media has also related the complexities of identifying and remediating contaminated land and the impact contamination can have on major developments.
In this most recent audit, we focused on the management of contamination on unallocated Crown land and unmanaged reserves, an area covering nearly 38% of the State, but potentially ‘out-of-sight and out-of-mind’. Unfortunately, my audit found this was indeed the case.
The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH) has not effectively prioritised management of contamination risks on this land. Oversight and communication between DPLH and the Department for Water and Environmental Regulation has also been poor. This has seen long delays in identifying and reporting contamination and addressing potential risks.
While some progress has been made, DPLH still faces a significant task in systematically assessing, reporting and effectively managing contamination risks on Crown land. The recommendations of this report should help to refocus efforts.