New EPA Victoria CEO appointed

A new Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) Chief Executive Officer has been appointed, replacing Nial Finegan who had been in the role for four years.

Dr Cathy Wilkinson has been selected for the role, having worked with the EPA since 2015 and previously held senior leadership roles in the planning, water and environment portfolios for various state government departments.

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She has been a member of Ministerial Advisory Committees and has provided environmental leadership for international organisations such as the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

EPA Chairperson Cheryl Batagol said Dr Wilkinson’s experience will be invaluable as the EPA continues its transformation process.

“This is an exciting time for the EPA as we consolidate our leadership team and continue working to become Victoria’s modern, agile environmental regulator,” Ms Batagol said.

“We are committed to continuing our successful engagement with our stakeholders and undertaking extensive consultation throughout this period of change and transformation.”

EPA Victoria’s focus is implementing the new powers and tools granted to them by the state government to prevent risks to the environment and human health.

Changes from the Environment Protection Act 2017 and Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 will require an overhaul of the EPA’s systems, services and processes by 2020.

EPA VIC to extend $6.5M program to tackle local waste issues

The Victorian EPA has extended its more than $6.4 million Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) pilot project for 13 council areas.

The program gives councils on-the-spot access to EPA capabilities and aims to build upon the EPA’s relationships with local governments to enable faster identification and resolution of smaller-scale waste issues.

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It will now run for an additional seven months until 31 July 2019 to address issues such as dust, odour, waste dumping and stockpiling, littering and noise pollution.

OPLEs began training in September 2017 and have responded to 355 incident reports and completed 299 inspections as of 30 June 2018.

The councils selected include Port Philip, Casey, Greater Dandenong, Wyndham, Surf Coast, Mildura, Greater Shepparton, Wodonga, Loddon, Buloke, Central Goldfields, Brimbank and Hobsons Bay.

Waste dumping and stockpiling was a concern in Mildura while sediment run-off and littering at new residential housing developments was a focus for OPLES in Surf Coast, Wyndham, Shepparton and Wodonga.

EPA CEO Nial Finegan said the program allowed expertise to be shared between EPA and councils to make a difference to issues that affected local amenity and liveability the most.

“We’ve received great feedback from councils and residents about the impact the OPLEs are having,” he said.

“At its core, the project is about creating meaningful change on a local level and using education to drive compliance.

“We will not shy away, however, from imposing sanctions when proactive measures are not effective and environmental and public health is put at risk. And by partnering with councils, a greater range of sanctions are available to address all aspects of an issue.

Mr Finegan said the program was identified through the Independent Inquiry into the EPA.

“By addressing smaller problems, we can stop them becoming bigger problems,” he said.

“Protecting Victoria’s environmental and public health is everyone’s responsibility.

“We’re committed to empowering Victorians to become environmental leaders, in their homes, communities and businesses, and the OPLE project is a key part of that.”