Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Waste and recycling

Information for public land managers

This information is for managers working for a public authority (e.g. local council or state government agency) who are responsible for managing public land.

If waste is dumped on land you manage, you are responsible for

General principles

  • Do not permit land under your control to be used for the unlawful dumping of waste.
  • Operate in accordance with the responsibilities for maintaining the land you oversee, and minimise risks to visitors. These responsibilities are usually defined by the law administering the public authority, and are usually further defined, for example, in a Corporate Plan or Statement of Affairs.
  • Build cooperative relationships with neighbouring land owners and the local council. Be aware of the powers and responsibilities of land managers responsible for neighbouring land.
  • Comply with the relevant legislation relating to illegal waste dumping. The main requirements are summarised below. Public land managers should seek legal advice about their requirements to comply with legislation if you are unsure, and keep up to date with any changes.

Dealing with dumped waste

Land managers duty of care

Under the Civil Liability Act 2002 and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, land managers are required to manage waste that is illegally dumped on the land they control to ensure that any duty of care that may be owed to any persons on the land is not breached (whether or not the person was invited to be on the land).

Lawful disposal of dumped waste

Under section 143 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), land managers are responsible for taking action to ensure the waste generated by them and waste that is illegally dumped on the land they manage is transported to a place that can lawfully accept that type of waste.

Land managers must select reputable contractors to transport and dispose of the waste to a place that can lawfully accept it or face hefty fines or penalties, as the owner of the waste. Relying on advice from others, such as consultants or contractors, is no defence for transporting waste to a place that cannot lawfully be used as a waste facility.

Tracking hazardous waste

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014, certain hazardous wastes must be tracked when they are transported. If waste dumped on your land is ‘trackable’ you must comply with the regulations for consignors of trackable waste. See Tracking hazardous waste for more information.

Notice to clean up waste on public land

Under section 92(1) of the POEO Act, if the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) reasonably suspects that a pollution incident has occurred or is occurring, the EPA may, by notice in writing, direct a public authority to take clean-up action specified in the notice. The public authority is authorised and required to take that action.

See RailCorp case study: EPA directs RailCorp to clean up asbestos waste.

Investigation and enforcement

  • NSW Police or the appropriate regulatory authority is responsible for investigating illegal dumping incidents on public land. See AELERT for information on how public land managers can investigate illegal dumping and take enforcement action.
  • Any person in NSW can prosecute for illegal dumping offences under the POEO Act if the Land and Environment Court gives them leave to do so. In practice, most illegal dumping prosecutions are initiated by local councils and the EPA.
  • Special legislation applies to some areas of public land and creates offences for the illegal dumping of waste on that land. The relevant public land manager can prosecute or issue a penalty notice to a person who commits one of those offences.
  • Some public land managers have powers to direct persons to clean up waste illegally dumped on the public land they manage.
  • Trespassing laws can be used to tackle illegal dumping. The police have powers to arrest and remove trespassers, or court proceedings can be commenced seeking an injunction to restrain a person from interfering with the use or enjoyment of the land (i.e. by trespassing on it).
  • Some public authorities have powers to impound abandoned or unattended articles under the Impounding Act 1993


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Page last updated: 14 January 2015