Book Review: Australian Environmental Law: Norms, Principles and Rules

Published in 2014 as a third edition, and now revised in 2016, a fourth edition of this book is almost due. It is not a book to be quickly skimmed for an answer as a reference text, but instead provides a detailed thematic examination of norms and principles.

The rapidity of change in environmental law in the past two years means that the book does not update readers on important developments such as:

  • The EPA and the Climate Change Act 2010 have been reviewed since 2014 and targets set under the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target 2010.
  • The presumption against retrospectivity in the context of clean-up of contaminated land has been varied by Premier Building & Consulting Pty Ltd v Spotless Group Ltd (2007) 64 ACSR 114 and Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board v Yarra City Council & Ors [2015] VSC 773.
  • Polluters and former polluters need to be aware that statutory liability for remediation remains with the polluter, regardless of whether the pollution occurred prior to the commencement of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic), whether the site has been vacated, relinquished or sold and regardless of other contractual arrangements dealing with potential land contamination (MFESB v Yarra City Council [2015] VSC 773).
  • The discussion about “ecological justice” should also include “restorative justice” and“disaster justice”, a concept that has increasing relevance in the Australian context and our fire-prone landscape.

In light of such rapid change, the time may be ripe for a fourth edition.

PostScript:  This Book Review was first published in the Law Institute Journal