Hittin’ the road again

addresses the attendees at the Sydney RoadshowWorking with and listening to our stakeholders is a high priority for the EPA. We value having effective and genuine relationships with our stakeholders, and look for opportunities to meet them and develop these relationships.

We want to have two-way conversations and share knowledge. Our stakeholder forums, which we started in 2021, are a prime way to achieve this.

Our Roadshow forums for councils and licensees in early 2021 were a huge success. We followed up in November 2021 with forums for peak bodies and the community – online, because of COVID-19. Then in the first half of 2022 we held in-person meetings with regulated stakeholders.

Online forums

On 12 November 2021 we held a two-hour online forum with senior executives from 45 peak bodies. All were keenly interested in the EPA’s policies, guidelines and priorities. We discussed how we could work better together, how industry reports to us and how we could develop engagement opportunities. Attendees were interested in our strategic focus areas, our digital transformation, our waste strategy and our approach to climate change.

A week later we held another interactive online forum, this time inviting community members and interest groups. We talked about how we protect the community and then broke up into smaller groups to engage more closely and hear and answer questions.

Some of the main issues discussed were air quality, waste, odours and forestry.

We want to have two-way conversations and share knowledge.

In-person events

Between March and June 2022 we travelled to nine locations around NSW to meet with regulated stakeholders and hold targeted discussions. The discussion topics were nominated by stakeholders and ranged from resource recovery and incident management to pesticides and radiation.

Noise annoys

Noise is not only annoying: it can also cause issues with sleep, work and health. In NSW complaints about noise are managed by local councils, the EPA, NSW Police, Transport for NSW and other agencies.

Our Noise Guide for Local Government gives councils practical advice for dealing with neighbourhood noise. It explains the regulatory framework for managing noise, who is responsible for managing noise from different sources, and the options councils have to prevent and manage noise.

In 2021 we put a new draft of the guide out for public consultation. This new draft reflects changes in the Protection of the Environment (Noise Control) Regulation 2017 and other legislation. The consultation period ended in September 2021 and we’re revising the draft in response to stakeholders’ comments.

Visiting Port Botany

View of Patrick Terminals from the towerEach year the EPA Board visits a regulated site to see it first-hand and talk with people who work there. In April 2022 the Board, the Executive and some EPA staff members visited the Botany Industrial Park and Patrick Terminals in inner Sydney.

Botany Industrial Park

The 60-hectare industrial park is home to chemical manufacturing facilities, remediation projects and logistics operations, among other businesses. All companies in the park are EPA licensees. The Board visited two, Orica andQenos.

‘We were surprised to see how close the site is to residential areas. This is a result of Sydney’s industrial legacy,’ said EPA’s Acting Director of Governance Risk and Planning, Alison Cochrane.

The visitors were shown around the park so they could understand its complexity, geography and the chemicals on site. They were also shown how technology is being used to address issues, such as groundwater contamination, that have been problems in the past.

Information flowed both ways, as the companies were keen to learn from the visitors. ‘They asked us how the EPA engages with the community, since they are looking to be more proactive with their engagement rather than just when there is an issue on site,’ Alison Cochrane said.

Patrick Terminals

While at Port Botany the Board also visited Patrick Terminals, one of the three container terminals that operate out of the site. Each year Patrick processes 3.11 million shipping containers, moving them from vessels to storage areas or trucks. Some containers hold chemicals, waste or dangerous goods – substances the EPA regulates. From a high tower overlooking the terminals, the visitors watched the containers being moved – a mesmerising dance of coloured dots.

The visits to regulated sites help the Board members better understand local issues and inform how they direct EPA regulation.

One three one, triple five

close up of hands using a mobile phoneIt’s the number to call to report pollution and environmental incidents. It’s one of the most significant points of contact between the EPA and the public we serve. It’s Environment Line, and its operators are ready to receive your call.

And people do call. Lots of them.

In 2021–22 the Environment Line team fielded a total of 35,367 calls, actioned 35,818 enquiries and logged more than 11,000 environmental incidents. Most of these interactions concerned water pollution, odour, noise, waste management and air quality. There was also a surprising number of calls about chemtrails – the vapour trailing off aircraft wings – so many, in fact, that a special code was created to report on them.

‘The chemtrails calls can be very hard work and take our time away from other callers who need our assistance,’ Environment Line Team Leader, Zane Scott, says. ‘Recently one person kept calling to try different operators for a response that was more favourable, and of course they didn’t [get one].’

The Environment Line team fielded a total of 35,367calls

Often there are clusters of calls related to major environmental events. Two of our biggest volume of enquiries were related to floods and the warehouse fire at Wickham in inner-city Newcastle.

Information from calls is recorded in the Compliance Incident Reporting and Management system. Every call we receive is a valuable opportunity for us to listen and act.

Number of reports