Land owners beware - the Polluter Pays for legacy contamination

Authors: Johanna Kennerley, Senior Associate and Ben Hall, Special Counsel

The ‘polluter pays principle’ is the corner-stone of global environmental policy, and the basis of environmental laws throughout Australia. In Yarra City Council v Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, the ‘principle’ can be seen in action.

The Victorian Court of Appeal recently held that the Yarra City Council (Council) had to compensate the land owner for the cost of cleaning up pollution that occurred up to 100 years ago, in respect of land that had been transferred multiple times since the contamination occurred and which the Council had not owned since 1996.

This decision is important for all land owners and occupiers who participate in activities that could cause contamination across all Australian states and territories.

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