As the environmental steward and regulator of our State we are committed to a sustainable future. There are seven regulatory priorities for 2023–2024.
As we respond to urgent current issues, including climate change, we educate and support our stakeholders to create an environmentally healthy future.
One of our key roles is to protect the community and environment from harm. In considering the most significant near-term threats, we have identified seven topics we are prioritising for the financial year 2023–24.
EPA Regulatory Priorities are drawn from significant or emerging threats or opportunities which require near-term action. We focus on priorities that are large enough to matter, yet small enough to make a difference in a twelve-month period, and which contribute to the greater Strategic Plan 2021-24.
Forestry, pesticides and End-of-life tyres continue to be a focus for us while previous priorities have seen progress and are being supported through regular work streams as part of our core business.
Priorities for the 2023-24 financial year
These regulatory priorities are broadly consistent with the EPA’s five strategic focus areas of ecologically sustainable development, waste, water quality, legacy and emerging contaminants, and climate change.
Air pollution from dust
Reducing air pollution has been core to our work for many years as community concerns continue. Air pollution has many causes such as bushfires, dust storms, domestic wood heaters and transport. Due to likely seasonal and climate changes, we will be taking a place-based approach to reduce air pollution from high dust emitting activities like mine sites.
Broadacre and intensive horticulture pesticide management
There are growing community concerns around pesticide use, especially spray drift, which is the movement of pesticide spray droplets beyond the immediate area it’s being used. This can impact people, property, animals, and plants. In response to this, the EPA is prioritising the management of broadacre and intensive horticulture pesticides, including how they are monitored.
Managing contamination from past activities is important but only part of the story. We are taking a proactive approach to contamination in two key areas by:
- applying financial controls to high-risk licensed facilities
- identifying and risk assessing abandoned underground petroleum storage systems sites.
The management of end-of-life batteries has become an area of increasing concern, in particular lithium-ion batteries. They’re great at powering our smart phones, e-bikes and other devices, but they contain chemicals that can cause fires and pollute the environment. We will focus on the safe management of waste batteries and encourage the recycling and repurposing of batteries so there’s less of them going to landfill.
Waste tyres must be managed responsibly as they can pose a risk to the environment and take up valuable space in landfill. The NSW Government also supports the national Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme. In response to the growing trend of stockpiling end-of-life tyres, we will focus on the safe storage and tracking of waste tyres, as well as their illegal or unsafe disposal.
Flammable solvents can be a significant fire risk. We are focusing on the safe management of flammable solvents, including identifying and assessing their lifecycle in NSW. This will include inspections to identify and reduce the risk of fire, and to develop a better understanding of the supply and demand of solvents that influence management practices.
The EPA continues to ensure the forests of NSW are protected from unlawful harvesting operations. We will focus on protecting the habitat of koalas and other threatened species by monitoring how well industry complies with the identification, design and protection of environmentally significant areas and retained trees.
The bushfires of summer 2019–20 led to increased environmental risk and sensitivity in forests. This warrants the EPA focusing on ensuring all lawful protections are delivered. We will continue our compliance efforts to make sure the native forestry industry is meeting its regulatory obligations.
Following China’s ban on importing plastic waste, the Australian Government also banned the export of unprocessed plastics and tyre waste. This has led to a greater likelihood of tyres being stockpiled. Waste tyres must be managed responsibly and the NSW Government supports the national Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme. In addition, the EPA will focus on:
- disposal of tyres, including illegal dumping
- tracking of waste tyres
- safe storage of waste tyres
- resource recovery.
With a number of changes in the global recycling market, the potential for plastic stockpiling has increased. We need to make sure this risk is well managed.
The NSW Plastics Action Plan was launched in June 2021 to manage plastic throughout its life cycle, from generation to supply and disposal. The plan includes reducing plastic waste, making the most of our plastic resources, reducing plastic leakage, and improving our understanding of the future of plastics.
Hazardous and liquid wastes
Prolonged wet weather has exacerbated infrastructure and processing challenges for the hazardous and liquid waste industry. The industry now needs to work differently to manage risks and meet the needs of the NSW community.
We will prioritise additional regulations for generating, storing, transporting, treating and disposing of hazardous and liquid wastes.
There are tens of thousands of registered radiation sources in NSW and these may pose risks if not managed responsibly and safely.
In the current year, the EPA will focus on collaborating with industry to ensure radioactive sources used in medicine, industry, research and education are safely used and disposed of.
Pesticides and chemicals
Pesticides and chemicals, when used incorrectly or unsafely, can have catastrophic impacts both short- and long-term on our health, our economy and the environment.
We will work to ensure that pesticide use is undertaken safely. We will engage collaboratively, with a particular focus on overspray and run-off on the North Coast, Central and Northwest regions of the State.