Closed landfill management

Many properties Brisbane City Council leases or licences were once landfill sites and are now referred to as closed landfill sites. Due to the former use of the site as an active landfill site, the land is required to be registered with Queensland Government. In most instances it will also be on the Environmental Management Register (EMR).

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, everyone has a general environmental duty (GED) to not carry out any activity that causes, or is likely to cause environmental harm, unless the person takes all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent or minimise the harm.

Essentially a duty of care, the GED applies to all persons undertaking activities (including notifiable activities) in Queensland or outside Queensland that may affect Queensland's environment.

Landowners and occupiers of land listed on the EMR or Contaminated Land Register (CLR), or suspected of being contaminated, must ensure that they meet their GED when using the land to ensure that any risks to human health and the environment are known and managed.

As land occupiers, community facilities tenants located on closed landfill have this duty of care.

Closed landfill sites require a higher level of pre-planning, site assessment and contaminated soil management if you plan to excavate or undertake development works.

Closed landfill sites have various levels of contamination and different waste types buried beneath the surface of grassed playing fields and buildings.

As the waste still remains buried, these sites:

  • are more difficult environments to develop
  • require additional assessment
  • are likely to have contaminated soil, water, materials, and landfill gases to consider and manage.

Determining if your leased/licensed area is on a closed landfill site

In most cases, Council will identify if the lease/licence area is a closed landfill site in the lease terms and conditions.

In some cases, contamination may only be found when site works and excavations commence. It is important to contact Council to assist you through the planning phase of site development projects.

If you are unsure if your lease/license area was once a landfill site, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Tenant responsibilities

Council tenants, including sub-users, on closed landfill sites are responsible for protecting their members and other users of the site from environmental and health risks. This can be achieved by:

  • obtaining written Council approval prior to undertaking any building, development or excavation works or making any changes to the use of the site
  • selecting fit for purpose construction techniques and design materials to consider the  environment where landfill waste exists under the surface
  • developing plans for work on the site which take into consideration the findings of any environmental investigations undertaken and associated closed landfill risks
  • reporting any suspected contamination released into the environment, made visible or surface collapse incidents
  • ensuring no soil or waste is removed from the site without notifying Council before doing so, testing the soil and obtaining the necessary soil disposal permits
  • protecting the landfill cap/cover over waste and maintaining healthy grass coverage over fields
  • ensuring all workers or sub-contractors are aware the site is a closed landfill and job specific risks are managed through documented work safe procedures.

It is crucial you do not undertake any building, development or excavation works on a closed landfill site without written Council approval.

Any proposed change to the use of the site (e.g. change in activity delivery) also requires Council approval and may trigger further site risk and contamination assessment.

Before you start planning any works or site use changes, phone Council on 07 3403 8888. Council has specialised officers who can provide you with:

  • essential pre-planning advice
  • guidance on technical information
  • assistance in identifying site constraints
  • advice on appropriate site management processes.

It is also important to note there may be significant additional costs associated with planning and undertaking works on a closed landfill site, including the cost of preliminary technical investigations. You may also need to develop a Contaminated Land Management Plan.

Following preliminary discussions with Council regarding your proposed works or site use changes, you may then be guided to formally apply for written approval from Council to proceed with your project.

If you do receive Council approval to undertake works or change your usage, you must comply with all the conditions and requirements outlined in your approval letter.

Closed landfill lessee guide

Council has developed a closed landfill lessee guide to provide advice to community facilities tenants on closed landfill sites, including how to manage them and undertake development works or upgrades.

As the custodian or owner of community facilities, Council must ensure the facilities are managed and operated appropriately to minimise any risks to human health or the environment. The guide provides practical advice for tenants on how to manage a closed landfill site.

Download the guide in your preferred format:

*large document size

Notify Council of changes to closed landfill

Notify Council immediately by phoning 07 3403 8888 if you notice or suspect:

  • subsidence
  • large surface holes or potential voids (ensure no-one enters the hole/void)
  • landfill leachate
  • exposed waste
  • landfill gas odours.

Engage suitably qualified people

Dealing with contaminated land is a specialised area that often requires technical expertise.

If you are looking to undertake any works on a closed landfill site, you will need to employ the services of a suitably qualified person to provide advice on your project and the processes involved when undertaking works on a closed landfill site.

A suitably qualified person (often a contaminated land consultant) is a professional that has the necessary qualifications and experience to assess contaminated land and ensure that risks to human health and the environment have been appropriately managed.

The Australian Contaminated Land Consultants Association (ACLCA) represents the major environmental consulting firms involved in the assessment and management of contaminated sites in Australia. Refer to the ACLCA list of suitably qualified persons who can help you with your project.

Visit the Queensland Government's engaging a suitably qualified person web page for more information.

Apply for a disposal permit

You need a disposal permit to remove contaminated soil for treatment or disposal from land listed on the EMR or CLR.

On-site remediation of contaminated soil is considered best practice. Removing contaminated soil for treatment or disposal off-site should only be carried out when on-site remediation is not practicable.

The Queensland Government issues disposal permits for the removal of contaminated soil to licensed waste disposal or treatment facilities that are legally able to receive the soil under the conditions of an environmental authority. Written acceptance from the owner of the land where the soil is to be received must be obtained.

Soil disposal permits are issued for a specified duration and volume of soil. The permit may include conditions relating to the soil removal, transport and treatment and/or disposal process. Soil disposal permits cannot be amended. If the soil volume changes post approval, a new soil disposal permit is required.

Get advice 

To ensure community facilities tenants and Council meet Queensland Government laws, it is essential for tenants to seek Council approval for any excavation, building or development works on a closed landfill site. Any proposed change to the use of the site also requires Council approval and may require further site risk and contamination assessment.

It is important you get advice from Council before you start planning works or changes to a closed landfill site. Phone Council on 07 3403 8888 for assistance.

More information

For more advice on how to manage a closed landfill site, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Related links

Last updated:

Brisbane City Council acknowledges this Country and its Traditional Custodians. We pay our respects to the Elders, those who have passed into the dreaming; those here today; those of tomorrow.