Our organisation

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is the primary environmental regulator for New South Wales.

Our role includes protecting, restoring and enhancing the quality of the environment in NSW and reducing risk to human health.

 We’re a statutory body established by the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991 and are required to develop environmental quality objectives, guidelines and policies to ensure environment protection. The State of the Environment Report, produced every 3 years, reports on the status of key environmental issues facing NSW.

As a State government agency, we work along-side the Australian Government and local governments to deliver environmental outcomes that support healthy environments, economies and communities.

We use a combination of activities to respond to environmental and human health issues Activities include enforcement and education, business and community partnerships and economic mechanisms to address challenging environmental issues.

Our work is informed by scientific evidence and consultation with stakeholders. Our Strategic Plan sets out our work priorities and key results areas. The plan is updated each year to reflect changes in focus and emerging issues.

Looking forward

We have an exciting future ahead, with our Strategic Plan establishing a proactive and protective approach to ensure our environment is future-proofed for our children and generations to come.

This video reflects on some of our key moments, offering insights into how we started, what we faced and the environmental and community outcomes we achieved together.

1991Foundational legislation. The the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991 (POEA Act) is passed, the principal piece of legislation upon which the EPA operates.

1992Start of the EPA. The EPA officially “opens for business”

1990sHomebush Bay clean-up. The EPA is heavily involved in the massive remediation and clean-up program of Homebush Bay in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. This involved the removal of nine million cubic metres of waste and was one of the largest clean-up programs ever staged in Australia.

1995Pesticides regulation. The EPA takes over the regulation of pesticides from NSW Agriculture.

1997Two more acts. A three-year overhaul of the laws the EPA administers is completed, which leads to the passage through Parliament of the Contaminated Land Management Act and the POEO Act, two important pieces of legislation that remain at the heart of our work to this day.

2001Don’t be a tosser! The EPA’s hugely effective Don’t be a tosser! campaign is launched to address littering from vehicles.

2003 – New department and a shift in priorities. The EPA is incorporated, with other environment-related agencies, into a new Department of Environment and Conservation, reflecting a shift in government priorities from pollution prevention to conservation.

2011 - Incident at Kooragang. A major pollution incident at Kooragang Island in Newcastle was the catalyst for the NSW Government to prioritise pollution prevention and regulation.

2012 – An independent authority. Following the previous year’s incident at Kooragang Island, the EPA is re-established as an independent authority with a clearly defined mandate and enhanced powers.

2013Waste Less, Recycle More. Delivery begins on the Waste Less, Recycle More program, a five-year $465.7 million waste and resource recovery initiative which is still a major part of our ongoing work in the waste space.

2017Return and Earn. Launch of the EPA’s highly successful container deposit scheme, Return and Earn, complete with its own mascot, Ernie the wombat.

2020Black Summer Fires. The EPA, alongside other agencies, contribute more than 21,000 hours in response to what became known as the Black Summer fires, the largest bushfires in modern record.

2022Stronger powers. The Environment Legislation Amendment Act 2022 is passed, significantly strengthening the EPA’s environment protection legislation. These new laws close many loopholes and better equip the EPA to tackle criminal behaviour.