Australia: Victorian Government commits $45.5 million to improve the EPA

Last Updated: 17 April 2017
Article by Elisa de Wit and DArcy Hope

Introduction

On January 17, 2017, the Victorian Government (Government) released its response to the Independent Inquiry (Inquiry) into the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). In the main, the reform proposals put forward by the Inquiry were strongly endorsed by the Government, with 40 of the 48 Inquiry recommendations fully supported, 7 recommendations supported in principle and 1 recommendation supported in part. Details of the recommendations can be found in our earlier update.

The EPA's objective, principles and functions

The Government has supported the recommendation that an overhaul of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act) is necessary to deliver a modernised and fit for purpose legislative framework for environment protection in Victoria. Rather than establish a separate Act to set out the EPA's objective, functions and governance structure, as suggested by the Inquiry, the Government has elected to legislate the recommended establishment provisions within the EP Act itself.

The amendments will include a legislated objective that seeks to provide clarity in regard to the overarching purpose of the EPA.

As such, the EP Act will be updated in two stages:

  1. a bill to legislate establishment and governance provisions, which will be introduced to Parliament as soon as practicable in 2017 (Governance amendments); and
  2. a bill to give effect to the overhaul of the EP Act which is planned to be introduced to Parliament in 2018 (Overhaul Bill).

To ensure effective governance, the Government has committed to establish a multi member board to oversee the EPA. To support the board, the Inquiry proposed that it be legislated that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the EPA possess science or engineering qualifications or experience. The Government elected not to adopt this recommendation for two primary reasons. First, it would potentially limit the pool of experienced executives and second, because the CEO would be supported by experts such as the Chief Environmental Scientist.

The EPA as a science-based regulator

The Inquiry's recommendation that a Chief Environmentalist Scientist be legislated within the senior executive structure of the EPA has been adopted. The position will be included within the Governance amendments, and an interim position will be advertised immediately.

The EPA's role within Victoria's environment protection regime and emergency management

The proposal to introduce an 'Environment Protection (Integration and Coordination) Act' to improve coordination and collaboration across government on environment protection and associated public health issues was supported in principle by the Government, with a decision to be made on whether separate legislation is required after the Overhaul Bill has been developed.

The Government supports the need to clarify which parties may apply for review of decisions made under the EP Act. Despite the Inquiry recommending that the test for standing under the EP Act match section 5 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1999, the Government has determined that it will first need to investigate how this can be done without creating uncertainty in other jurisdictions. Further consideration will also be given to whether the rights for third parties to take civil action for breaches of environmental laws should be expanded.

The Inquiry identified that emergency management is a major and growing activity for state agencies. It has recommended that the Government confirm the EPA's role as a technical advisor and remove it as a control agency responsible for pollution of inland waters and transfer these responsibilities. As such, control agency responsibilities for pollution of inland waters will be transferred from the EPA to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

Taking a strategic approach to land use planning

The Inquiry identified that the EPA has limited opportunity to influence strategic planning decisions, despite it dealing with a large number of complaints about health impacts and amenity that have been caused by poor planning decisions. To address this concern, the Inquiry recommended the creation of a statutory trigger to require responsible authorities to seek advice from the EPA on planning processes that involve significant human health and environmental risks.

The Government has supported this recommendation. It proposes to create statutory mechanisms to ensure that the EPA is involved in strategic planning processes and will commence work this year to identify and implement the appropriate statutory mechanisms. Mechanisms will also be investigated to achieve appropriate buffer distances for existing and future industries and activities, including through changes to the Victorian planning framework.

Strengthening prevention

The Inquiry identified the need to introduce a general duty to minimise risks of harm to human health and the environment. The Inquiry proposed that such a duty would , amongst other things, require a person to take reasonable steps to minimise risks of harm from pollution, that the introduction of its application should be staged and a breach of the duty should give rise to criminal penalties, civil penalties and/or civil remedies.

With regard to the health of Victorians and the environment, the Government believes that this reform will deliver a landmark shift toward preventing harm and intends to introduce the duty as part of the Overhaul Bill. It proposes that the preventative duty will deliver:

  • increased clarity and guidance for industry about their environment protection responsibilities;
  • greater flexibility for industry on how they manage environmental risks; and
  • a more level playing field for regulated entities.

As part of these measures to strengthen prevention, the Government intends to adopt the Inquiry's recommendation to increase the EPA's regulatory role. This may possibly be done by expanding the cohort of activities requiring a works approval or licence, although further work will be done on this aspect in due course.

Holding polluters to account

The Inquiry identified that the EPA initiates relatively few prosecutions and that there is a need to develop an overarching strategy to strengthen its processes, procedures, and resourcing to facilitate timely prosecution. It was recommended that part of this strategy would include expanding the range and increasing the severity of sanctions.

The Government has elected to support this recommendation by committing $6.5 million for the EPA to develop a prosecution strategy in 2017. Although the Government supports the proposals regarding the severity of sanctions, it notes that its current standards are in line with what is expected of a modern regulator. As such, the Government has committed itself to determine an appropriate range and proportionate mix of offences to be legislated as part of the Overhaul Bill.

Strengthening mining regulation

As mining activities pose immediate and long term environmental threats when not managed properly, the Inquiry recommended that the EPA play a greater role in regulating the sector. It was proposed that this role would be formalised under the Mining Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.

Although the Government agreed it was paramount that environment and public health risks associated with mining are effectively managed, it only supported the Inquiry's recommendations in principle. It determined that there was a need to establish clear and easy to use environmental standards under the EP Act. The Government however did not see the need to introduce changes under the Mining Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, as changes to that Act were introduced in 2015 incorporating requirements for risk-based work plans and allowing the Minister for Resources to request various reports from operators.

A broader and more effective local response

Local government is uniquely placed to deliver timely responses to local concerns, but often lacks resources. To address this, the Inquiry proposed the establishment of a new statewide network of local government environmental protection offices to address local concerns. It was proposed that the network be funded by DELWP and for the EPA to provide training.

The Government has supported the grass roots project by committing $4.8 million to deliver a pilot local government protection officer project in 2017-18. It has also committed to ensuring that the EPA provide strategic coordination, technical support and further training.

Funding the reforms

The Government has committed $45.5 million over the next 18 months to implement its response to the Inquiry's recommendations, which is intended to be spent as follows:

  • introducing the Governance Amendments and Overhaul Bill to Parliament
  • $4.8 million to enhance Victoria's public health capability
  • $2.1 million to appoint a Chief Environmental Scientist
  • $4.8 million on the local government environment protection officers pilot
  • $6.5 million to increase on ground resources and develop a prosecution policy, annnd
  • $1.5 million to strengthen EPA's role in strategic government decisions, including land use planning.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Elisa de Wit
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions