The Victorian Andrews government yesterday announced a $45 million overhaul for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is aimed at making the watchdog better at prosecuting cases where environmental regulation is breached.
Responding to a 10-month review of the EPA, the government is now seeking to implement 40 of the 48 recommendations put forward.
The EPA review broadly found the agency was too slow to respond to breaches and also lacked the resources to enforce the conditions it sought to impose on commercial organisations.
The $45 million includes:
- $6.5 million for more investigators, environmental officers and lawyers
- $4.8 million to establish a network of local government environmental protection officers
- $4.8 million to expand its environmental public health team
- $2.4 million for a public database of sites that pose a legacy contamination risk
The government plans to introduce the funding and reform the Environmental Protection Act 1970 in the next 18 months, prior to the 2018 state election.
Mark Wakeham, chief executive of Environment Victoria, said the proposed reforms were largely positive, but remarked that it was disappointing the EPA doesn’t have a stronger role in enforcing mining activities.
“Our issue is the mining regulators have often been too close to the industry and in some cases have been proponents of the industry by doing thing like offering licenses for coal,” Wakeham told The Guardian. “There has been a series of catastrophic failures of Victorian mines, at Hazelwood and Yallourn, so we think there’s a way to go in this area.”