How to report odour

Concerned about or need information on reporting unreasonable odour? Our Environment Watch Service is here to help.
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What is unreasonable odour?

Odour is experienced when one or more chemical compounds in a gaseous form stimulates the sense of smell. Odours emitted to the atmosphere may result in annoyance or nuisance to members of the public. A person’s reaction to odour is subjective. An odour may be pleasant to one person and unpleasant to someone else.

Not all odours are covered by legislation. Generally, only ‘unreasonable’ or ‘offensive’ odours are regulated. An odour is considered unreasonable as defined under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act) if it unreasonably interferes with the health, welfare, convenience, comfort, or amenity of any person.

There is no reliable or accurate equipment that can measure odour or annoyance. The following factors may be used to determine the level of interference with the amenity that a person may experience:

  • frequency of odour impacts
  • intensity (or strength)
  • duration of the exposure – the time you first smelt the odour and how long it lasted for that day
  • offensiveness of the odour
  • location – where you smelt the odour (for example, at your home or business)
  • impacts on your normal activities.

Reporting odour

Unreasonable odours are regulated under different laws, including health and local laws, which are enforced by local governments. Nuisance odours from residential properties, businesses such as food outlets and restaurants, premises keeping animals, and commercial activities are managed and investigated by your local government authority.

You can find local government contact information in the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries My Council directory.

Odours from potential natural gas leaks should be reported to ATCO Gas via phone on 13 13 52. The presence of a rotten egg type odour may indicate a gas leak. The rotten egg smell is added to natural gas to help you detect gas leaks.

In an emergency, or to report a life-threatening incident, call the Department of Fire and Emergency Services on 000.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation regulates large industries licensed or registered under the EP Act. Typical odour-emitting activities that we would investigate and regulate include:

  • industrial premises
  • waste facilities and landfills
  • wastewater treatment plants
  • animal renderers, feedlots, piggeries, and abattoirs
  • composting facilities.

You can search for licensed premises on our website. If you are impacted by unreasonable odours from a licensed premises, you can submit a report to our Environment Watch service via our hotline or by using the online report form below.

You can also consider contacting the premises directly. Conditions of a licence or works approval issued under the EP Act may include complaint management conditions, requiring the premises to take action to respond to any complaints received.

If you are regularly impacted by an unreasonable or offensive odour, we recommend you keep a diary to record the details of the events and report the event as soon as possible. Notes in your diary may include time, date, description of the odour, wind, and weather conditions, what you experienced and observed and, if known, the source of the odour. This will assist any investigation.

If you have concerns about any health effects that you are experiencing, please seek medical advice. Contact your regular doctor, an After hours GP or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

How to report odour to Environment Watch

You can submit a report to Environment Watch using the online report form below, or by calling our 24-hour Environment Watch Hotline on 1300 784 782.

When you submit a report to Environment Watch, you will receive a response acknowledging your submission. We may contact you for further information or to discuss your report in more detail.

Not all matters reported to Environment Watch are managed by our department. For reports that relate to local government or another State or Australian Government agency, we will forward the report to the relevant authority.

Find out further information about our Environment Watch service.