A key risk for landfill operators, and operators of other industrial facilities, is the encroachment of inappropriate land use and development that may constrain existing operations (or proposed expansions).

As the recent Bald Hills Wind Farm decision demonstrates, the fact that a landfill facility (or other industrial facility) can demonstrate that it complies with applicable approvals regulating the effects of pollution will not, necessarily, be a defense against a claim in nuisance if their operations give rise to adverse amenity impacts on adjacent land use and development.

The Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recently released two new Draft Guidelines - a ‘Landfill Buffer Guideline’ and ‘Separation Distance Guideline’ – to address to mitigate that risk.

The Draft Guidelines will be a key factor in determining the viability of any proposed expansion of existing landfill and industrial facilities, as well as a key tool to assist landfill and industrial facility operators objecting to proposed inappropriate land use and development in the vicinity of their operations.

It will be important for land fill operators, and operators of other industrial facilities, to understand the implications of the proposed Draft Guidelines on their existing business (and any proposed expansions/acquisitions) and make submissions if necessary to protect their position.

Draft Guidelines – Overview

The Draft Guidelines aim to:

  • protect industry and landfills from inappropriate land use and development nearby that may constrain operations; and
  • protect human health and amenity from the effects of pollution and waste associated with the operation of industry and landfills.

The Draft Guidelines will:

  • be considered by planning decision makers and apply to new applications only;
  • create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for planning advice for land use within a landfill buffer zone;
  • contribute to the ‘state of knowledge’ test for prosecutions and enforcement;
  • enforce new landfill buffer distances around new, expanding and varied landfills; and
  • require industrial uses and activities that emit odour or dust to adopt new or amended separation distances.

The Draft Guidelines are not retrospective and do not require existing landfills to comply with the proposed separation and buffer distances.

Draft Landfill Buffer Guideline

The Draft Landfill Buffer Guideline will replace the existing EPA Guideline entitled ‘Assessing planning proposals within the buffer of a landfill’ (EPA publication 1642) and relevant parts of ‘Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills’ Guideline.

Key changes include:

  • planning advice and details on environmental risks associated with landfill buffers. For example, new or expanded landfills will be referred to the Victorian EPA and considered against the new guideline;
  • updated human health and amenity buffers, including an increased 1,500m buffer for putrescible waste (Type 2) landfills with a tip face greater than 50m2. The guideline provides that this 1,500m buffer may be reduced to a minimum of 1,000m if an appropriate odour risk assessment demonstrates that an alternative buffer is acceptable;
  • suitability of uses within buffer zones.

Draft Separation Distance Guideline

The Draft Separation Distance Guideline will replace the existing EPA Guideline entitled ‘Recommended separation distances for industrial residual air emissions’.

Key changes include:

  • new separation distances, including (but not limited to) the following activities:
    • plastics manufacture and or recycling (> 2,000 tonnes per year): 200m
    • bulk storage of chemicals: 1,000m
    • chemical storage and warehousing facilities: 100m
    • biosolids application areas: 500m/1,000m2
    • liquid waste facility: 500m
    • materials recovery and recycling facility: 250m
  • increased recommended separation distances, including (but not limited to) the following activities:
    • transfer station (accepting green waste/putrescible waste): 250m to 500m
    • landfill accepting solid inert waste (Type 3): 200m to 500m
    • landfill accepting municipal (putrescible) waste (Type 2); tip face greater than 500 m2: 500m to 1,500m
    • open cut coal mine: 1,000m to 2,000m
    • quarry without blasting: 250m to 500m
  • process for varying a recommended separation distance; and
  • detail on key assessment factors and human health and amenity risks.

Next steps

The Landfill Buffer Guidelines and Separation Distance and are open for comment until 5:00pm on 17 February 2023 and can be found here.

Please contact us if you have any questions around implications of the Draft Guidelines, or would like assistance in drafting a submission.

Expertise Area