a. The EPA’s performance and success

Each year the Board considers how the EPA has reduced risks to human health and prevented environmental degradation.

Performance assessment summary

The Board regularly monitors the EPA’s performance and publicly reports the outcomes in the annual report, on the EPA website and to Parliament. The Board supports the EPA’s shift towards becoming a world class regulator. This helps the EPA further reduce risks to human health and prevent environmental degradation.

The Board acknowledges the EPA has progressed significant corporate initiatives to support these objectives. The EPA Strategic Plan 2021–24, delivered in July 2021, commits to the key attributes of world class regulation:

  • learning mindset
  • outcomes-focused
  • responsive and adaptive
  • purpose and people-centred
  • service-oriented.

The EPA Executive has worked with the Board to make climate change a focus for 2021–24, along with ecologically sustainable development, waste, legacy and emerging contaminants and water quality.

Key corporate initiatives include the EPA’s Workforce Strategy, which considers capability and future-building, a revised Risk Framework, which is regularly audited by the EPA Audit and Risk Committee, and the EPA’s significant Digital Transformation Strategy.

The EPA’s regulatory efforts have delivered positive impacts and tangible outcomes in the financial year to June 2021. These include how well it has responded to health and environmental incidents, consulted with industry and local government, and taken a lead in responding to environmental issues following natural disasters.

Examples include:

  • protecting communities, waterways and the aquatic environment from pollution following severe storms and flooding in March 2021
  • enhancing native timber forest protection, with a significant focus on recovery after the 2019–20 bushfires
  • helping communities directly by reducing the risks from legacy contamination from past industrial activities, such as lead and asbestos
  • managing programs and incentives to reduce the harmful impacts of waste, fight littering and waste crimes, and support a circular economy.

This statement also provides an overview of the EPA’s performance compared to regulators in other Australian jurisdictions. Section B provides examples of EPA programs aimed at regulating key industry sectors to reduce risks to human health and prevent environmental degradation.

dirt road through paddock with dark tree covered mountains in background with cloudy grey sky

Near Bellingen, NSW. Photo: iStock

The EPA’s progress since 2019–20

In its previous statement in 2019–20, the Board made several recommendations to improve both the EPA’s performance and that of the industries it regulates. The Board reports good progress on these recommendations.

  Commencement Under way Established Delivered
Progress on the Board’s previous recommendations from EPA Board Regulatory Assurance Statement 2019–20 Program is under development Program has commenced and is working towards outcomes Program is achieving results Program sees results towards achieving environmental outcomes


Regulatory review

Establish an approach to formally review and compare initiatives, systems and approaches taken by environmental regulators in other jurisdictions that could improve the EPA’s regulatory performance.


Striving to become a world class regulator

timeline status well-established
  • The EPA has consulted broadly across its environmental and regulatory networks, other EPAs (including Victoria, South Australia and the USA) and other national and international organisations, to continually improve its services, boost its regulatory effectiveness and be consistent.
  • The Audit and Risk Committee Charter and the EPA Internal Audit Charter are reviewed annually. Audit and assurance recommendations are recorded and shared with internal stakeholders. Implementing the recommendations is monitored and reported quarterly.
  • The EPA Strategic Plan 2021–24 has the EPA setting new metrics in its first year towards measuring the achievement of environmental outcomes for NSW. The plan will be further supported by the EPA’s Regulatory Strategy. The EPA will also explore how feasible it is to set common benchmarks for environmental regulation in Australia or globally.
  • The EPA reports its performance quarterly under the NSW Treasury and government reporting frameworks.


Data and strategy

Continue to improve the application and use of data collected by the EPA for trend analysis, development of priorities and risk-based compliance campaigns by progressing its Regulatory Strategy and Digital Transformation Strategy.


Learning mindset

timeline status underway

The EPA’s Digital Transformation Strategy 2021–24, data strategy, draft approaches to science and science partnership services promote adoption of intelligent, efficient and effective digital tools.

In 2020–21 the way data is applied and used were improved by:

  • using the EPA’s new Environment Protection Incident and Cases (EPIC) management system, which allows the EPA to track investigations and inspections from beginning to end
  • undertaking intelligence work to understand emerging issues, trends, risks and opportunities. This information aids policy development, improves compliance approaches to regulatory challenges and supports environmental crime investigations.


Regulatory action

Take regulatory action (including prosecutions) when appropriate and apply the proposed update to public interest considerations in the EPA Prosecution Guidelines.


Responsive and adaptive

timeline status delivered

  • The EPA continues to take appropriate regulatory action against breaches of the environment protection legislation it administers. This includes commencing prosecutions in court.
  • The EPA Prosecution Guidelines were updated in 2020, adding extra factors to determine if a prosecution is required in the public interest. In 2020–21, the EPA commenced more than 100 prosecutions, completing 66 (more detail can be found in the EPA Annual Report 2020–21).


Forestry reset

Support the reset of forestry regulatory practice, including actions to improve regulatory consistency and coherence for stakeholder engagement, and enhance regulatory capacity, oversight, technology use and education.


Outcomes focused

timeline status established

In 2020–21 the EPA created two additional teams to enhance its regulatory capacity across regional NSW, with increased focus on native forestry compliance, noting that non-compliance with native forestry regulations was a persistent issue that placed considerable demand on the EPA’s resources.

  • The EPA has created an automated risk-assessment tool for Crown native forestry areas to ensure high-risk operations were swiftly identified and inspected.
  • Incorporating the Forestry Operations View into forestry regulatory practice has enabled a better intelligence-based vision.
  • Focusing resources has helped the EPA account for native forestry operations against strict licensing approvals. Substantial reforms followed a health-check of native forestry operations and the results include improved governance, risk and stakeholder processes.
  • The EPA has developed a forestry stakeholder strategy guide to lead effective communication about forestry operations on public land. Workshops with community stakeholders interested in forestry allowed the EPA to explain its role in forestry regulation, seek views and listen to concerns. The EPA also consulted with stakeholders on improvements to how the EPA receives and shares information about forestry regulation.
  • Significant information on the EPA’s regulatory decision-making is now publicly available through its website and other media.


Emergency preparedness

Advise all environment protection licensees to consider the impacts of natural disasters in their pollution incident response management plans.


Purpose and people-centred

timeline status well-established

The EPA provides critical information and early warnings to prepare for emergencies, including storms and floods.

  • During the 2019–20 bushfires, the EPA dispatched alerts to licensees to assist with their preparedness and contacted any who were managing premises in the fire paths, an approach well received by licensees.
  • A new alert issued in November 2020 assisted emergency preparedness for the La Niña weather pattern forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology. This included advice from the bureau and the NSW Rural Fire Service about the increased risks of flooding and grassfires associated with a La Niña event. After the La Niña forecast, licensees were alerted to be ready to activate their pollution incident response management plans. The alerts gave specific advice about managing dam capacity and made sure any licensees undertaking high-risk activities had appropriate monitoring and controls to minimise potential impacts.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, an EPA campaign helped licensees and councils manage their operations. This included supporting and communicating with the waste sector and negotiating with government so the waste industry could continue operating essential services.


Industry participation

Encourage industry through targeted awareness and education programs aimed at industry sectors


Service oriented

timeline status well-established

The EPA consulted extensively with industry stakeholders and increased its engagement with them in response to its Stakeholder Survey findings.

In 2020–21 it took actions that included establishing:

  • roadshows with forums for councils and licensees at 12 different locations around the state, with more planned to include community and peak interest bodies
  • a local government advisory group and a waste advisory group to inform and consult with councils and the waste sector on key and emerging issues, including the EPA’s regulatory work and support
  • education and consultation sessions for industry on key regulatory matters, which involved developing guides to make licensees more aware of their responsibilities in environment protection and what they can expect from the EPA
  • a customer service strategy and new compost training resources that continually address technology, regulations and requirements for organics processing
  • an online program, Your Business is Food, to help businesses reduce food waste under the Love Food Hate Waste program. Further resources for the aged-care sector will be published online by December 2021.

 

Comparing the EPA’s performance to that of regulators in other jurisdictions

International approaches to agile regulation

The EPA participated in a World Economic Forum project, collaborating with other regulators to find new ways of adapting to the fast pace of technological and digital change. It undertook a self-assessment using the forum’s characteristics of an agile regulator and collaborated with other international regulators to talk through shared challenges.

The EPA aligned with its peer regulators in having shared strengths of being proportionate, fair, open and outcomes-focused. It showed potential improvement in the areas of coordination, responsiveness, proactiveness and being experimental.

The EPA and its peer agencies identified opportunities for growth through innovation and international collaboration.

The forum’s findings shaped the context for the EPA’s new strategic plan. They further enhanced a commitment to innovation and partnerships to respond to environmental challenges. This is reflected in the EPA Strategic Plan 2021–24.

Jurisdictional networks and communities of practice

The EPA’s connection with other agencies helps it share knowledge with these agencies and learn from them. This now forms a continual improvement process, and is fundamental in working towards world class regulation. The Board is satisfied the level of environment protection achieved by the EPA compares favourably with that in other Australian jurisdictions.

It is also keen for the EPA to strive towards leading the work in climate change, as set out in its strategic plan.

HEPA logo

As a member of the Heads of Australian and New Zealand EPAs (HEPA), the EPA works with environmental regulators across jurisdictions to prevent harm, influence policy and practice, share scientific expertise and drive strategic interventions in environmental issues. Participation by the NSW EPA Chair and CEO in HEPA allows the Board to keep up-to-date with the regulatory approaches taken by environmental regulators across Australia. It allows EPA staff to work with their counterparts in other agencies to improve environmental regulation.

ANZSOG logo

The Australian and New Zealand School of Government’s National Regulators Community of Practice is an active network of public sector regulators who are keen to learn from each other. They come from all levels of government in Australia and Aotearoa–New Zealand and are from every regulatory sector, professional background, role and level of seniority. The EPA’s membership supports a learning mindset, building capabilities and connections.

AELERT logo

Many EPA staff participate in the professional network for environmental regulators across Australasia, the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulator’s neTwork (AELERT), partnering with jurisdictional regulators to collaborate, and share ideas and learnings.

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