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NT EPA advice on COVID-19

08 Apr 2020

What the NT EPA is doing

Through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) will continue to deliver its statutory and regulatory activities, and provide support to the community to ensure the environment remains protected.

As the health and wellbeing of our employees is our highest priority, we acknowledge that we will be conducting our business differently for the duration of this situation.

The NT EPA's business continuity plan is being reviewed regularly in light of the most up-to-date health advice. That includes planning to allow staff to work remotely where appropriate and ensuring staff operate within the necessary work health and safety requirements, so that we maintain our statutory obligations as best we can to prevent environmental harm.

The NT EPA recognises, however, that its approach to environmental regulation must be informed by the unprecedented circumstances we are all experiencing.

Environmental impact assessment

We will aim to meet statutory timeframes in the assessment of development proposals. We will prioritise timely decision-making on Notices of Intent submitted for an assessment decision.

The Environment Protection Act 2019 will commence mid-year. The NT EPA will continue to prepare for commencement by developing and consulting on a range of guidance material to support implementation of the new environmental impact assessment and approval legislation.

Environmental licences and approvals and compliance

The NT EPA expects firms to act responsibly and reasonably in meeting their environmental obligations. We will work constructively with our regulated community and where warranted will adopt a practical approach to licensing and approval decisions and compliance activities that recognises the temporary challenges and constraints that the regulated community may be experiencing due to genuine COVID-19 related impacts on their business operations.

Our priorities are to efficiently assess licence and approval applications, especially where activities support essential services, and focus compliance and enforcement effort on higher environmental risk activities, particularly where the public interest warrants us to do so to prevent immediate environmental harm, egregious illegal conduct or other time critical matters.

What we expect from those that we regulate

Licence and approval holders must continue to comply with environmental legislation and the conditions of their authorisations. These include the priority responsibilities of maintaining and operating pollution control equipment, and storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately.

The NT EPA recognises, however, that this is an unprecedented situation that may create temporary challenges for licence and approval holders to meet their obligations. We encourage licence and approval holders to contact us if they are having difficulties in meeting their obligations due to COVID-19 related impacts to discuss their concerns and what alternative, practical measures might be put in place to meet the environmental outcome. We will aim to be constructive and pragmatic in our response to the challenges being faced, while expecting appropriate environmental outcomes to be maintained. Any temporary relief may include extensions to timeframes, time-bound amendments to licence and approval conditions, and granting exemptions where available.

We recommended the development and implementation of a business continuity plan to guide how operations will be managed. A business continuity plan will help to ensure that responsibilities associated with managing the environmental impacts from activities can continue to be met.

The regulated community are strongly encouraged to maintain good communications with customers, clients, local communities and the NT EPA, particularly around any predicted or unexpected service disruptions. The regulated community must continue to notify the NT EPA of pollution incidents and other regulatory or compliance issues or events.

If you have any concerns about your capacity to comply with your regulatory responsibilities, including licence and approval conditions, you are encouraged to contact the NT EPA on:

How to stay updated on COVID-19

Contacting the NT EPA at this time