From the Interim CEO
Welcome to our first edition of EPA Connect for 2020. The past months have been a tremendously challenging time for NSW, as the bushfires had and continue to have a devastating impact on many communities across the state and as we all now face the developing situation presented by COVID-19.
I am honoured to step into the role of Interim CEO at a time when the EPA is so ably responding to these challenges.
At the EPA we are doing our best to respond to COVID-19. This includes having a business continuity plan in place to ensure we continue to keep essential services going and fulfil our responsibilities as the state's primary environmental regulator, while maintaining the health and safety of our staff, communities, industry and partners. We have also been in touch with our licensees to check in on their business continuity plans.
Our Environment Line call centre is operating as normal, and we encourage community members to continue reporting suspected pollution incidents to us for investigation, and for stakeholders to get in touch as needed. This is an emerging situation and if you are an environment protection licence holder and are concerned about meeting your licence obligations at this time, or need advice on business continuity preparedness for your operations, please contact the Environment Line 131 555.
We will continue to provide updates to stakeholders and the licensed community around relevant changes in the government's response and management plans.
Bushfire response and recovery
The EPA has dedicated resources to respond to the bushfires and our role is both in assisting the Rural Fire Service during the emergency response and in the recovery effort. Our officers are providing support to residents and councils in affected areas through assessment of damaged buildings and critical infrastructure including sewage treatment plants and water supply. We are also assisting with waste management and will continue to provide this support as communities rebuild.
To concentrate our efforts, we have put in place a temporary team to lead our fire response and to assist the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE)’s Environment Task Force of which EPA’s Executive Directors Stephen Beaman and Clair Cameron are members. The EPA's Bushfire Operations and Recovery team is headed by Executive Director Arminda Ryan and will be supported by a mix of dedicated staff and some from our existing teams who are working on a combination of bushfire activities and their normal work. This will help to ensure that our important regular work continues.
In response to community concerns on measuring air quality during the smoke events experienced in the bushfire season, DPIE has recently changed the way it reports Air Quality Index (AQI) data on its website. The data is now reported in hourly thresholds rather than rolling 24-hour averages.
In other news
The EPA is now supporting the NSW Government on two major consultations on the future management of plastics and other waste resource recovery through the NSW Government’s proposed Plastics Plan and 20-Year Waste Strategy. Everyone can have their say now on the two discussion papers. Read more in the article in this edition.
A new operating model for the EPA was announced to staff in December and is now being put into place as our offices move to Parramatta. The realignment for the EPA will help us improve the way we operate, with teams built based on their common functions, such as operations, regulatory advice and practice or technical expertise.
The model will allow the EPA to be a leader in the protection of human health and the environment by promoting improved collaboration within the EPA, strengthening our responsive services and avoiding areas of duplication and overlap. There will be no staff cuts, and a continued strong customer focus. Key EPA contacts for most stakeholders and licensees will remain the same and where there are changes, we will be in touch.
This edition of EPA Connect brings more detail on the EPA’s role in bushfire recovery and general training for emergency response as well as news about the 2019-20 Litter strategy, Return and Earn’s amazing 3 billion container milestone, three dynamic summer media campaigns appealing to home renovators and gardeners to help them stay safe around contaminants, plus a spotlight on prosecutions over the past few months.
You will also find more information about the relocation of the EPA’s offices to Parramatta.
Interim Chief Executive Officer
Richard Bean is CEO of the EPA while CEO Tracy Mackey temporarily takes on the role of Co-ordinator-General for Environment, Energy and Science in the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. Richard brings with him a wealth of legal and regulatory experience from the private and public sectors, including senior executive roles in media and telecommunications and more recently as Chairman of Commonwealth regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority.