Contaminated sites can pose a risk to human health and the environment. Unless they are effectively managed, they can be a source of ongoing pollution of aquifers and waterways, degrading habitats, hampering the beneficial use of natural resources, preventing the development of land and threatening water security.
The CLM Program was originally established by the Environmental Trust in 2001 to provide financial assistance for the remediation of significant contamination legacies that were not amenable to resolution using available regulatory tools under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 (CLM Act). Funding was provided to legacy sites where, without external funding, harm would continue or worsen, and the clean-up would be significantly delayed or potentially not occur at all.
The CLM Program initially focused on sites where existing site owners did not cause the contamination on their properties and did not have the resources to remediate – see Innocent Owners, the first project of the program. In 2005, the program was expanded to include investigation and remediation of council gasworks sites such as Tarcutta Street Gasworks, Wagga Wagga, which aimed to assist councils to remediate former gasworks sites for which they were legally responsible under the CLM Act.
Since 2011–12 the CLM Program has also included a pilot program to investigate the scale of derelict underground petroleum storage system (UPSS) issues and remediation and long-term funding options. Under the current CLM Program the UPSS program has been limited to Council Road Reserves.
The current CLM Program also includes complementary capacity-building programs such as the Regional Capacity Building Program and the Regional Acceleration Program to ensure that responsible land managers in rural areas have the capacity to deal with contaminated land management issues in the long term. The capacity building program will support councils’ role as a development consent authority (where land might be affected by contamination), as an operational manager of council land, as a local technical resource for the community, and also help to address some of the obstacles to cleaning up contamination legacies in regional and rural areas.