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 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.
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.