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76024 Environmental Law

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2018 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Law
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Requisite(s): 70616 Australian Constitutional Law OR 70311 Torts
These requisites may not apply to students in certain courses. See access conditions.
Anti-requisite(s): 79004 Environmental Law and Science


This subject evaluates the effectiveness of environmental regulation in Australia, by examining the interaction of rules, relationships, systems and processes designed to protect the environment. In conjunction with considerations of practical aspects of environmental law, the subject also provides students with an introduction to environmental ethics, planning law and planning policy.

Students are called upon to engage continuously with the notion of sustainable development which weaves throughout the subject as a consistent theme. An understanding of sustainable development provides the linchpin for evaluating the effectiveness of environmental regulation in a variety of contexts including:

  • decision making which incorporates trade-offs, and
  • humanity's increasing consumption of environmental resources.

The learning materials focus on the key themes which underpin the practice of environmental law, such as:

  • the role of private property rights and environmental protection
  • sustainable development
  • the protection of biodiversity, and
  • pollution and climate change.

Successful completion of the subject provides students with a valuable foundation of knowledge of environmental law from which they can successfully undertake more specialised environmental law subjects, including international environmental law, climate change law, and international trade law and the environment.

The subject takes a practice-oriented approach to student learning by focusing discussion on problem questions that deal with real environmental issues on which legal professionals provide advice in professional practice.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Analyse and evaluate principles of environmental law and policy to identify strengths and weaknesses in the Australian jurisdiction.
2. Analyse the regulatory and incentive mechanisms that create tension in reconciling environmental, private property and economic interests, and the flow-on effect on achieving goals of sustainable development.
3. Conduct effective legal research by identifying and evaluating primary and secondary legal materials and interdisciplinary scholarship in order to investigate the effectiveness of environmental regulation in Australia.
4. Reflect critically upon personal communication and collaboration skills and apply strategies to facilitate teamwork, synthesise discussions and improve group and class outcomes.
5. Analyse and monitor their own performance and implement strategies for developing their self-management, particularly time-management.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes which reflect the course intended learning outcomes:

  • Research skills
    Well-developed cognitive and practical skills necessary to identify, research, evaluate and synthesise relevant factual, legal and policy issues. (4.0)
  • Communication and Collaboration
    Effective and appropriate communication skills including highly effective use of the English language, an ability to inform, analyse, report and persuade using an appropriate medium and message and an ability to respond appropriately. (5.0)
  • Self management
    The ability to implement appropriate self-management and lifelong learning strategies including initiating self-directed work and learning, judgment and responsibility, self assessment of skills, personal wellbeing and appropriate use of feedback and, a capacity to adapt to and embrace change. (6.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

Strategy 1: Preparation for On-Campus Learning

To prepare for the interactive seminars it is essential that students complete the weekly readings and watch the assigned video clips. All learning materials, such as journal articles, book chapters, video clips, podcasts, hypotheticals and problem questions can be accessed from UTSOnline and are conveniently assembled into an electronic workbook (available on UTSOnline). The questions and hypothetical scenarios are used to stimulate class discussions (including collaborative work) and raise awareness and engagement with respect to Australia’s environmental law regime. Sound preparation is vital to facilitating students being able to work collaboratively in class; it also enables students to build their understanding and monitor their progress through continuous feedback provided to them and their peers during class discussions. Being able to participate actively in informed and meaningful discussion hones individual understanding though collaborative development of analytical skills.

Strategy 2: Collaborative Learning

Students work collaboratively in the same group (assigned by the subject coordinator) throughout the subject. This strategy encourages social cohesion of the groups. The collaborative process takes place in stages over the course of the seminars. Students are assigned into groups and work together on an ice-breaker, leading to engagement with hypotheticals, problem solving and presentations within their groups. Students draw on their developing knowledge and understanding of frameworks, law and policy to consider hypothetical scenarios and give presentations on topics and issues that are typical of those that lawyers and policy-makers will encounter in the practice of environmental law.

Strategy 3: Developing Research and Management Skills

Research and management skills are essential for every lawyer. The learning materials for this subject cover a range of law, policy and theory relevant to environmental law and policy. The material on sustainable development weaves throughout the subject and, together with other learning materials available from UTSOnline, provides tools and opportunities for students to practise their research skills by researching and preparing for their class presentation and researching and writing the essay. In addition, the research essay is scaffolded (see Assessment Tasks 2 and 3) to provide students with further practice in research as well as assisting in the development of skills such as time-management skills, self-directed learning and appropriate use of feedback.

Strategy 4: Seminar Learning Activities

The seminars include a range of practical learning opportunities comprising of discussions, debates and practice problems that involve explaining and applying complex policy and statutory provisions. Students have the opportunity to apply their analytical and doctrinal skills to practice-oriented scenarios, typical of the practice of environmental law.

Strategy 5: Ongoing Feedback

Opportunities are provided for formal and informal feedback throughout this subject, starting from the first seminar. Students receive informal feedback on their oral skills, knowledge of the law and quality of analysis of legal issues. This includes informal peer feedback on presentations as well as self-assessment by students on their class participation. Detailed criteria for the feedback and self-assessment are available from UTSOnline. Students are given the opportunity to obtain feedback from their teacher on their class participation halfway through the teaching session. In addition, formal feedback is provided on the annotated abstract for the research essay (Assessment Task 2), which is due several weeks before the research essay itself (Assessment Task 3). This includes feedback on students’ ability to critique, articulate ideas and synthesise research material. Providing early feedback allows students to use that feedback to improve the quality of their research essay. Finally, formal written feedback is provided via UTSOnline for the research essay.

Subject Delivery: The subject will be delivered in a three-hour seminar each week of the teaching session. The seminar includes blended learning components and students are expected to prepare for seminars as well as attend and participate in the seminar sessions unless prevented by extenuating circumstances.

Content (topics)

Topic 1 – The Nature of Environmental Law

  • What is environmental law?
  • Growth of environmental law
  • The social and legal context

Topic 2 – The Development of Environmental Law

  • Environmental protection and common law
  • International environmental law

Topic 3 – Environmental Ethics

  • Ethics and values in environmental law

Topic 4 – Sustainable Development

  • Ecologically sustainable development
  • Precautionary principle
  • Protection of biodiversity
  • Intergenerational equity
  • Economic instruments/polluter pays

Topic 5 – The Purpose of Environmental Law

  • Legislation, structure and content

Topic 6 – Federal Governance and the Environment Protection of Biodiversity Conservation Act

  • Federal governance
  • Commonwealth v Tasmania
  • Environment Protection of Biodiversity Conservation Act

Topic 7 – Strategic Environmental Planning and Impact Assessment

  • Environmental planning
  • Environmental impact assessment

Topic 8 – Protection of Biodiversity

  • Protected areas
  • Native vegetation
  • Native wildlife and threatened species

Topic 9 – Pollution Control

  • Pollution, waste and contaminated sites

Topic 10 – Climate Change

  • International obligations
  • National responses

Topic 11 – Environmental decision-making and the courts

  • Standing
  • Enforcement of environment regulation


Assessment task 1: Collaboration and Class Participation


Students demonstrate their application of essential knowledge and skills whilst collaborating with colleagues in circumstances that closely relate to professional practice, including “thinking on one’s feet”.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

4.0, 5.0 and 6.0

Weight: 30%

Total word equivalent is 1500 words


Criteria for Part A:

  • Consistent preparation and contribution to the class discussion of topics demonstrating appropriate application of disciplinary knowledge
  • Ability to work collaboratively on problem solving and present findings to class
  • Critical analysis of materials and issues through reasoned choices and logical argument
  • Actively and respectfully listening to the perspectives, arguments and explanations of others

Criteria for Part B:

  • Accurate and up-to-date content
  • Undertake research beyond the prescribed materials
  • Presentation contains an analytical component
  • Speakers do not read their presentation
  • Speakers engage the audience
  • Speakers use a visual aid
  • Speakers keep to the time limit of 6-7 minutes per person for each group
  • Presentation is harmonised as a group

Assessment task 2: Annotated Abstract for the Research Essay


This task scaffolds the research essay, promoting effective research skills and self-management. It is intended to assess analytical and research skills and forms the basis of the framework for the research essay. It also provides students with formative feedback they can incorporate into their essay.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

4.0, 5.0 and 6.0

Weight: 20%

1000 words

  • Title for the essay that lets the reader know what the essay is about
  • The abstract provides a summary of the essay and should include: the purpose of the essay, the methodology, the arguments and a conclusion
  • Development of a preliminary logical and persuasive written argument
  • Identification of relevant literature
  • Annotated bibliography of five sources
  • Relevance of sources to the essay is evaluated
  • Sources should be set out in accordance with the AGLC

Assessment task 3: Research Essay


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

4.0, 5.0 and 6.0

Weight: 50%

2500 words

  • Understanding of the topic demonstrated by a clear introduction, effective and logical organisation of the essay and high quality arguments
  • Location, evaluation and use of primary and secondary research materials
  • Critical analysis and individual insight or originality
  • Development of a logical and persuasive written argument
  • Engagement of reader through the use of appropriate and accurate language
  • Incorporation of feedback provided for Assessment Task 2
  • Appropriate and proper referencing using the AGLC

Required texts

Gerry Bates, Environmental law in Australia (LexisNexis Butterworths, 9th ed, 2016)

2017 Electronic Work-book available from UTSOnline

Recommended texts

David Farrier and Paul Stein (eds.), The Environmental Law Handbook: Planning and Land Use in NSW, (Redfern Legal Centre Publishing, 5th ed, 2011)

D E Fisher, Australian Environmental Law: norms, principles and rules, (Law Book Company, 2nd ed, 2010)

Lee Godden and Jacqueline Peel, Environmental Law: Scientific, Policy and Regulatory Dimensions, (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Rosemary Lyster, Zada Lipman, Nicola Franklin, Graeme Wiffen and Linda Pearson, Environmental and Planning Law in New South Wales (The Federation Press, 4th ed, 2016)


Other Useful Material

Ben Boer, Robert Fowler and Neil Gunningham (eds), Environmental outlook: Law and policy, (The Federation Press, 1994)

Ben Boer, Robert Fowler and Neil Gunningham (eds), Environmental outlook no 2: Law and policy, (The Federation Press, 1995)

Neil Gunningham, Paul Leadbeter and Ben Boer (eds), Environmental outlook no 3: Law and policy, (The Federation Press, 1999)

Leslie A Stein, Principles of Planning Law, (Oxford Univ. Press, 2007)

Paul Martin and Miriam Verbeek, Sustainability Strategy, (The Federation Press, 2006)

David Mercer, ‘A Question of Balance’ Natural Resources conflict Issues in Australia, (The Federation Press, 3rd ed, 2000)


Environmental and Planning Law Journal

Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy

National Environmental Law Review

Macquarie Journal of International and Comparative Environmental Law - available from: or Heinonline through the UTS:Library database

Local Government Law Journal

Internet Resources (General)

CMS Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals:

Convention on Biological Diversity:

EDOs (Environmental Defenders Offices) of Australia:

ECOLEX: The gateway to environmental law


IMPACT! National Journal of Environmental Law - available for download on Environmental Defenders Offices website at

INECE: The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement:

IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law:

Ramsar (The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention):

Internet Resources (Specific)

Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, Agenda 21:

Office of the Environment and Heritage, NSW Government:

Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Government:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

Other resources


IUCNAEL: IUCN Academy of Environmental Law

National Pollutant Inventory

Other resources

World Business Council for Sustainable Development: