No attack on our environment is more obvious than litter and pollution, and no feature of our natural heritage is more under threat than the rhinoceros. Unfortunately, for the wrong reasons, this member of our ‘big five’ has been in the news all too often in the recent past, and litter is too much in our face every day.

Our environment is also under threat from another aspect of the human race – the development of towns, cities, residential suburbs, factories, and so on.

The Environment Conservation Act 1989 addresses these issues, and several others. The punishment – imprisonment and fines – stipulated for offences against the environment are harsh. Be warned!

  1. Any competent authority may direct any person who performs any activity (or fails to perform any activity) as a result of which the environment is endangered, to do the following:
    • cease such activity;1
    • take such steps in order to prevent the danger;2
    • perform any activity or function, at his own expense, with a view to rehabilitating any damage caused.3

    It is a criminal offence not to comply with such directions.

  2. Any competent authority may enter anyone’s land:
    • to investigate whether any action is necessary in order to give effect to the objects of the Act;4
    • to determine compliance with any provision, notice or direction of the Act.5

    If you obstruct such a person, it is a criminal offence.

  3. Any competent authority may declare any area as a limited development area. Then, no person can undertake, or cause any development (or activity prohibited by the competent authority) unless he is authorised.6 It is an offence to disobey this provision, or any of the conditions of authorisation.
  1. Section 53A(1)(a) read with section 29(3). 

  2. Section 31A(1)(b) read with section 29(3). 

  3. Section 31A(2) read with section 31A(1) and section 29(3). 

  4. Section 41A(1) read with section 29(3). 

  5. Section 41A(1) read with section 29(3). 

  6. Section 23(1) read with section 23(2) and Section 29(4).