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Government response to the Independent Inquiry into EPA

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EPA welcomes funding to protect Victorians and their environment

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Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) welcomes the Victorian Government’s response to the Independent Inquiry into the EPA, released on 17 January 2017.

The Government’s response embraces the vision for a stronger EPA developed by the Ministerial Advisory Committee in its Independent Inquiry into the EPA report, completed in March 2016. The response supports in full 40 of the 48 recommendations, with seven supported in principle and one supported in part.

The recommendations and funding of $45.5 million over the next 18 months reaffirm the importance of an effective environmental regulator and provide for an EPA capable of meeting new and future environmental challenges posed by a changing climate, evolving economy and growing population.

The announcement includes a major overhaul of Victoria’s legislative framework for environment protection, strengthening EPA’s independence and introducing a new risk-based preventative model for regulation.

Extra funding for EPA

Funding committed to by the government will kick-start an extensive reform program and includes:

  • $6.5 million to strengthen EPA’s prosecution strategy and fund more investigators, environment protection officers and legal staff to hold polluters to account
  • $3.3 million to deliver improvements in how EPA uses technology to communicate, including the development of a new digital strategy and $2.4 million to develop a database of legacy contamination risks
  • $4.8 million to pilot new ways to respond to local noise, dust and odour issues through a network of local government environment protection officers
  • $4.8 million to provide an expanded, specialist environmental public health team within EPA
  • $1.5 million to strengthen EPA’s role in strategic land-use planning.

EPA welcomes this announcement and is pleased to be able to share progress in delivering on the commitments made by the Victorian Government in May 2016, including:

  • welcoming an interim board with the skills and expertise to guide EPA in delivering reform
  • recruiting a Chief Environmental Scientist to strengthen and promote EPA’s scientific base
  • creating EPA’s Environmental Public Health Unit with transfer of experienced staff from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to EPA.

New Environmental Public Health Unit

Already, EPA is working to provide Victorians with improved environmental public health information and advice relating to pollution and waste following the transfer of experienced staff from DHHS to EPA in December 2016.

EPA’s new Environmental Public Health Unit provides a single contact point for environmental public health queries related to pollution and waste, supporting Victorians to understand scientific information and make informed decisions about their health.

Waste and pollution health queries can now be made through EPA’s customer service centre (1300 372 842 [1300 EPA VIC]), rather than contacting DHHS.

Chief Environmental Scientist and Interim Board

Expressions of interest in Victoria’s first Chief Environmental Scientist are now also open. This role will strengthen EPA’s authoritative scientific voice, working to ensure community is provided with robust, evidence-based advice and information.

EPA’s Interim Board has been appointed, with Cheryl Batagol continuing as EPA Chairman and Dr John Stocker, Professor Rebekah Brown, Ross Pilling, Monique Conheady, Debra Russell, Robert Hogarth and Professor Arie Frieberg appointed as board members.

EPA shares the Victorian Government’s vision of a stronger environmental regulator, better equipped to meet new and emerging environmental challenges, and is committed to implementing change in line with community, industry and government expectations.

EPA will set out its approach to the reform arising from the government’s response to the Inquiry in a new organisational strategy to be in place by 30 June 2017.

Background

The Victorian Government committed to a major public inquiry into EPA in 2014.

The Inquiry was completed over 10 months by an independent Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) and the final report was publicly released on 16 May 2016.

The Inquiry was the first comprehensive review of EPA since it commenced operations in 1971.

Q&A on the government response to the EPA Inquiry

Q and A on the government response to the EPA Inquiry + Expand all Collapse all

  • Why was there an inquiry into EPA?

    The Victorian Government committed to a review of EPA as part its election commitments. The Inquiry was undertaken to examine what our growing state needs from its EPA in the face of current and future environment protection and environmental health challenges. 

    Much has changed since EPA was created in 1971: technology, industry, the role of government, and the environment. The Victorian community has grown and changed, too, as have expectations of its environmental regulator. It was therefore timely that, after 45 years of service, EPA be reviewed to ensure it’s equipped to meet future challenges posed by a changing environment, shifting economy and growing population.
  • What is the purpose of the government response?

    The response outlines the government’s level of support for each of the Inquiry’s recommendations.

  • What will the reforms achieve?

    The Inquiry found Victoria needs a stronger and more prevention-focused EPA in the face of new and emerging challenges from waste and pollution.

    The reforms seek to protect the community’s health, the environment and Victoria’s liveability now and in the future.

  • Where can I access the Inquiry report and the government response?

    The Inquiry report and the Victorian Government response to it are available on the DELWP website.

  • What consultation took place?

    The Ministerial Advisory Committee conducting the Inquiry undertook an extensive public consultation program across Victoria. It released a discussion paper, hosted a series of public consultation meetings in 10 regional and seven metropolitan locations across Victoria, and met with over 250 representatives across industry, environment groups and local government in roundtable discussions.

    The Inquiry sought written submissions from the public and more than 200 submissions were lodged and considered when drafting the report.

  • What is happening now that the response has been released?

    This is a major reform initiative which is anticipated to take five years to complete.

    The government has announced members of an interim board with a mix of skills, to guide EPA in this period of reform. The interim board will be chaired by the current EPA Chairman, Cheryl Batagol, and include Dr John Stocker, Professor Rebekah Brown, Ross Pilling, Monique Conheady, Debra Russell, Robert Hogarth and Professor Arie Frieberg.

    Government has committed to implementing a number of initiatives as a matter of priority, including the following:

    • Introduce a bill to Parliament as soon as practicable in 2017 to legislate provisions relating to the establishment and governance of EPA.
    • Introduce a bill to Parliament in 2018 to deliver a modernised and fit-for-purpose Environment Protection Act 1970.
    • In consultation with local government, commence development of a pilot program of local government environment protection officers authorised under the Environment Protection Act 1970 in 2017, to ensure more timely local responses to pollution.
    • Commence the appointment process for a Chief Environmental Scientist for enhanced leadership and authoritative science communication.
    • Strengthen EPA’s environmental health capability.
    • EPA will commence a capability assessment  in 2017 to ensure current and new functions are supported.
    • EPA will set out its approach to reforms arising from the EPA Inquiry in an organisational strategy to be in place by 30 June 2017.
  • How can I provide input into the reforms?

    The reforms will be implemented over a five-year period. You can register your interest to be kept up to date with engagement opportunities on the Engage Victoria website.

  • What progress has been made so far?

    EPA has already commenced work on implementing reforms committed to by the government in May 2016. These include:

    • welcoming an interim board with the skills and expertise to guide EPA in delivering reform
    • recruiting a Chief Environmental Scientist to strengthen and represent EPA’s applied scientific and engineering expertise.
    • creating EPA’s Environmental Public Health unit related to pollution and waste, with the transfer of experienced staff from the Department of Health and Human Services to EPA. The transfer of some staff to form the new unit has already happened.
  • Why does EPA Victoria need a board?

    A contemporary governance structure will provide EPA the foundation it needs to meet current and future environmental regulation challenges in line with government and community expectations. 

    The establishment of a board requires legislative change, but to get things moving the government has put in place an interim board to provide strategic oversight of the development of a new organisational strategy and the initial reforms.

  • What will the Interim Board do?

    The terms of reference for the Interim Board identify the following:

    • developing EPA’s organisational strategy and delivering reform
    • delivering better environmental and human health outcomes for Victorians
    • building trust of community and industry in EPA and government
    • targeting proportionate, risk-based and cost-effective regulatory approaches
    • ensuring regulatory systems remain fit for purpose as circumstances change
    • increasing role clarity, with all opportunities taken to simplify and streamline processes.
  • What is the role of the Chief Environmental Scientist?

    The Chief Environmental Scientist will strengthen EPA’s authoritative, scientific voice, working to ensure the community is provided robust, evidence-based advice and information.

    As EPA’s science lead, the Chief Environmental Scientist will be a champion for innovation, capability and service delivery, improving the quality of EPA’s science.

    The Chief Environmental Scientist will set EPA’s science strategy and standards of excellence, and contribute to significant and complex regulatory decisions.

  • Who will the Chief Environmental Scientist work with?

    The Chief Environmental Scientist will provide advice to EPA’s executive team and other senior decision-makers across government, including the Minister for Environment, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer and Emergency Management Victoria leadership.

    The Chief Environmental Scientist will deepen EPA’s key relationships with universities, research organisations and government partners, ensuring EPA remains at the forefront of emerging science.

  • What is the role of the Chief Environmental Scientist in an emergency? Working with Victoria’s well-established emergency management sector, the Chief Environmental Scientist will play a key role in responding to emerging and critical issues, providing Victorians with the information they need to make an informed decision about their environment in an emergency.

Page last updated on 14 Jul 2017