For over 30 years now, the Werribee area has been experiencing major growth. These days, Michelle Walker is right there on the ground to help ensure that environmental problems do not grow too.
Why did you want to become an Officer for the Protection of Local Environment?
For me, it was the chance to work for EPA Victoria. I enjoy working with individuals, businesses and industry to improve their knowledge of environmental impacts and legislation, which results in an improved environment for all.
At the moment, it’s all about working with the water and environment team to improve practices on construction sites in Wyndham. When you open up areas for development, you’re exposing all of that soil. Then if the rain comes, it can wash that soil into creeks, waterways and Port Phillip Bay, and that causes all sorts of issues for the eco system.
Tell us about the area you are covering as part of your role.
I work closely with the Wyndham City council to cover the Werribee area. Werribee is developing fast and that means lots of sub-divisions and urban growth. It’s also very diverse, with industry in Laverton North, businesses around Werribee and Hoppers Crossing, market gardens, a harbour, and lots of rural areas. One of my biggest (and most interesting) challenges is educating contractors in environmental protection and erosion control.
What was your background before coming to EPA?
I’m an environmental engineer with a graduate diploma in environmental law. One of my most recent jobs before coming to EPA Victoria was working as an environment officer for the Department of Transport and Main Roads in Queensland. The role involved both managing the impacts of major construction projects as well as management of the land in road reserve – weeds, fire risks, historical heritage issues and so on.
I have also worked for South Australia’s EPA, managing the compliance of wineries and aquifer recharge.
Do you hear much from the general public about the negative effects of construction sites?
Yes when it comes to the dust, but probably not with regards to other effects, like erosion and sediment control. It’s more about the effect they have on creeks, waterways, fish and the ecosystem.
Have you bridged that gap between council and EPA?
Being able to go to places quicker and deal directly with the reports has certainly made a difference. It’s of great benefit to the local community.
How is the Wyndham team?
They are fabulous – a very supportive and a very forward-looking council.
Funded by the Victorian Government, the $4.8 million OPLE pilot program has seen 11 new EPA officers assigned to 13 council areas across the state. OPLEs work hand-in-hand with council to swiftly respond to local reports of noise, odour, dust, waste dumping and storage, litter and water pollution. Read more about the work OPLEs are doing in Victoria.