EPA Guidelines - Buffer distances

The new and extraordinarily weak EPA guidelines for separation of amenity-reducing uses is critically important, it has the potential to affect everyone. These are the requirements for separation of industrial and sensitive uses that the ‘buffer’ distances in the planning schemes at Clause 52.10 are based on. NOTE: It is not clear whether these new ones will automatically be put into planning schemes, or whether they will be modified beforehand.

Key features:

IMPORTANT: These guidelines are based ONLY on off-site residual odour and dust emissions. The separation distances are those required only for these issues.

NOT INCLUDED are impacts relating to “noise, vibration and hazardous air pollutants”. “While some odorous substances are also ambient or hazardous air pollutants, this guideline only considers these substances in relation to their odorous impact, and only for off-site residual odour and dust emissions” (page 3) Possible translation: smell but not noise or hazard

Many uses in the current Clause 52.10 are not addressed in these new guidelines, for example it appears (from a quick comparison) that rural industry, dry cleaners, freezing and cool storage and specific waste management and composting uses aren’t included (these also happen to be some of the uses being allowed or more easily allowed in the draft State rural zones). Many existing uses with separation distances of 100 or 200 metres are deleted, or said to have insufficient potential impact (for odour or dust only) as to not require separation (e.g. it appears panel beating – where noise is a key impact – seems to no longer be included).

There seems to be some ‘rounding’ of separation distances, with 200m going to 250 but 300m also going to 250, which suggests the distances are more uniform but aren’t necessarily reflecting the actual potential for impact. More rarely, some distances are increased, but that distance now applies for specified production levels, and may also include different elements of a use.

There are new qualifiers on many uses – for example the existing separation requirement applies to any amount, but the new ones say the existing separation distance only applies if certain volumes are produced. Many of the existing Note 1 and Note 2 requirements are deleted. Oddly, several uses which have current Codes of Practice (eg piggery) are newly included but referred back to the Code. Seems duplication, so not sure why.

If these new requirements are put into Clause 52.10 as is, Councils will be required to consider the matters not addressed in these ‘buffer’ distances, such as noise, vibration and hazardous substances. I think we all know how that would work…

The limitations of what these distances address makes you wonder why they’ve been issued at all. Is there any point in separation distances that don’t reflect all of the amenity (and health) reducing impacts of a use?