Land and Environment Court

ENVIRONMENT LAW NSW Land and Environment Court

Environment Law has grown over the last 30 years becoming a discipline encompassing planning and development, resources, environment protection and local government. Most environment law cases are heard in New South Wales in the Land and Environment Court a specialist court that like environment law operates differently to the way law has traditionally worked in New South Wales. Refer to Land and Environment Court on the page below. Often the rights of a property owner are in conflict with environment law which has as its aim a public rather than a private benefit. This is one of the features which sets environment law aside from most other laws. A consequence of the law protecting something ie the environment which does not belong to an individual but is of public interest, the law in New South Wales gives in a number of Acts of the NSW Parliament the right to any person to take court action for breach of an environmental law whether or not the person is affected personally.

Other courts and common law environmental remedies

There can also be court actions in relation to trees or access to land or prosecutions in the local court and there are appeals from the Land and Environment Court to NSW Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and to the High Court. Environmental law also involves traditional law remedies available in the common law (i.e. the law derived from court decisions forming principles and precedents) such as a nuisance action or negligence actions. These are part of the law of torts (French for 'wrong') a branch of the common law. A (private) nuisance action has been described as the unreasonable interference with the sensible use and enjoyment of a neighbour's land. A negligence action has a number of elements: a duty of care to a certain standard of conduct, the duty is owed to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff suffered loss caused by the defendant's breach of duty, that loss was reasonably foreseeable to result from the act or omission of the plaintiff. Typically nuisance actions in the environment area involve for example, interference from water flowing from a neighbour's land, or from noise, odour, offensive odours, vibrations, dust, noxious particles, smoke and other pollution. Actions for nuisance and negligence are taken in the traditional court system (Local, District or Supreme Court). Whether or not any action gives rise to a legal remedy has to be considered taking into account all the facts and the relevant legal cases which apply to those facts. Also, there may be statutory remedies which can be pursued as an alternative or addition. For example the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act gives rights to individuals to ask the court for a noise abatement order in situations which might also be a common law noise nuisance.