Publications / Planning and Environment

25 Mar 15
Approvals for environmentally relevant activities

Download PDF


  • Property developers, local governments or other private / public project developers.


  • It is an offence to carry out an environmentally relevant activity (ERA) without an environmental authority.
  • ERA 16 – extractive and screening activities may be triggered without you realising it.  If your project requires the removal of fill, even if the work is exempt development under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) (SPA) or covered by an operational work development approval, an environmental authority may still be required.


  • Understand your activities, and which ERAs may apply.  Double check your approvals advice has considered potential environmental authority requirements as well as development approvals.

If an entity intends to carry out an ERA, it must hold an environmental authority for the activity and be registered as a suitable operator with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP).

Failure to hold an environmental authority carries a maximum penalty of $512,325.

ERA 16 - Extractive and screening activities
Extractive and screening activities are an ERA and consist of any of the following:

  • dredging a total of 1,000 tonnes or more of material from the bed or naturally occurring surface waters, in a year, or
  • extracting, other than by dredging, a total of 5,000 tonnes or more of material in a year, from an area, or
  • screening 5,000 tonnes or more of material, in a year.

The legislation previously identified different approvals for extractive activities and the ERA 16 definition no longer makes specific reference to extracting materials from a pit or quarry.

The following activities are exempt from the requirement for an environmental authority for ERA 16:

  • extracting material authorised under an environmental authority for a resource activity
  • extracting material from a road reserve if the material is for constructing or maintaining a road and the surface area from which the material is extracted is less than 10,000m2
  • extracting material from a place for constructing a road or railway at the place
  • extracting material from a place, other than by dredging, for constructing the foundations of a building at the place
  • extracting material for reshaping land if the reshaping does not involve blasting and the material is not removed from the site on which it is extracted, and
  • screening material on the site from which it has been extracted in the course of carrying out an activity identified in the points above.

Approvals under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) (SPA)
Effective development approvals for material change of use, operational work and building work under the SPA are separate and additional requirements.

In some cases, a development approval for material change of use is required for an environmentally relevant activity that is identified as a ‘concurrence ERA’ under the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 (Qld).  If a development approval for material change of use for a concurrence ERA is required, the relevant local government is the assessment manager.

Operational work or plumbing and drainage work (including maintenance and repair work) carried out by public sector entities (including local governments) authorised under a State law to carry out the work is exempt development for which a development approval is not required.  However, even if the work is exempt development under the SPA, if the work falls within the definition of ERA 16, the public sector entity still requires an environmental authority.

Importantly, the existence of a valid development approval for operational work does not replace the need for an environmental authority where an ERA is triggered.


Focus covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. Focus is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.


Download PDF

In this section


For enquiries please contact: