Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Framework for Responding to PFAS Contamination
The Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Framework for Responding to PFAS Contamination came into effect in February 2018. It is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the states and territories to respond consistently to PFAS contamination to protect the environment and, as a precaution, protect human health. It seeks to ensure actions are effective, implementable, financially and logistically sustainable, proportionate to risk, and support economic stability. Australia’s environment ministers oversee its operation.
The Intergovernmental Agreement was reviewed by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments during 2019. The review found that collaboration and cooperation between Commonwealth, states and territories in responding to PFAS contamination has improved under the Intergovernmental Agreement. The review also identified areas for further collaboration, including: working together to reduce or prevent further PFAS contamination; better communication with PFAS-affected communities to increase awareness of government actions and improve trust; and increased clarity about the roles and responsibilities of polluters and regulators.
In response to the review findings, all jurisdictions worked together to update the Intergovernmental Agreement and strengthen these areas. The PFAS Contamination Response Protocol (Appendix A to the Agreement) was revised to be clearer about roles and responsibilities. The PFAS Information Sharing, Communication and Engagement Guidelines (Appendix C to the Agreement) was revised to encourage increased two-way communication with affected communities and other stakeholders. The Agreement itself was revised to include a new objective of working to prevent future PFAS contamination, and a new National PFAS Position Statement was developed and agreed.
The National PFAS Position Statement sets out the shared view of Australian governments that PFAS use in Australia should be reduced to the greatest extent practicable. The Position Statement will support discussion with industry and other stakeholders about how future PFAS use should be managed. More information can be found on the National PFAS Position Statement News Page.
Additionally, in a parallel but separate process, the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) has been updated and endorsed by environment ministers. The PFAS NEMP establishes a practical basis for nationally consistent environmental guidance and standards for managing PFAS contamination. It is included as Appendix B to the PFAS Intergovernmental Agreement, as it is instrumental in ensuring nationally consistent responses to PFAS contamination. Version 2.0 of the National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP 2.0) has been published on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s website.
The updated Intergovernmental Agreement, updated appendices A (PFAS Contamination Response Protocol) and C (PFAS Information sharing, Communication and Engagement Guidelines), and the new National PFAS Position Statement (Appendix D), as well as links to all the other appendices, are available on the Council of Australian Governments website.