Environmental legislation licences and permits

All Australian businesses can play a part in environmental management, but whether environmental laws affect your business directly will depend on your business type.

Federal, state and local governments jointly administer the environmental protection laws in Australia through bilateral agreements. As a business owner, you need to understand which laws apply to you.

The Department of Environment administers the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. It covers the assessment and approval process of national environmental and cultural concerns. The Department also administers specific Acts that cover activities relating to:

  • the sea
  • importing
  • heritage issues
  • hazardous waste
  • fuel quality.

Government agencies and industry groups also have a role in developing voluntary codes of practice that address the industry's impact on the environment.

Environmental legislation in your state or territory

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Northern Territory


South Australia



Western Australia

Environmental licences and permits

State and territory environment laws apply to specific business activities in the form of licences and permits. You can obtain approvals for environmental licences and permits from federal, state and local environmental agencies. The type of approval you need will depend on the location and type of business activity.

Federal Government

If your activity or action is likely to impact on areas of national environmental significance, you can obtain licences and permits from the federal Department of Environment and Energy. These include areas requiring special protection such as world and national heritage sites, wetlands, habitats of threatened or migratory species, federal marine areas and nuclear actions.

There may be quarantine restrictions on importing or exporting wildlife products, hazardous waste, ozone-depleting substances or synthetic greenhouse gases. You will need special approval through the Department of Environment and Energy for these items.

State and local Government licences and permits

If your activity is likely to impact on the local environment, such as parks, heritage sites, air and water, you can obtain licences and permits through your state or local governments.

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