Community roadshow November 2021

We met with community members and community interest groups in November 2021 as part of the EPA’s commitment to increasing community and stakeholder engagement. About 85 participants attended the forum including community interest groups, committee members and general community.

At this forum we talked about the EPA’s priorities and our work in protecting the community and environment. We provided an update on our strategic plan, regulatory strategy and waste strategy. We spoke about programs of interest such as waste, odours, forestry, and air quality.

We also dedicated half the session to listening to participants, providing time for smaller discussion groups and had an open question and answer session. The information below captures several key themes from these discussions and the EPA’s role.

Attendee feedback after the session was positive with a significant majority indicating they found the session “relevant and informative” and that they were “given the opportunity to have their say”. Almost everyone also agreed they would “recommend the forum to others”.

Questions and discussions are grouped here by theme with an explanation of our work in each area.

Can the current air quality monitoring network be expanded to include additional stations?

The NSW Government operates Australia’s largest air quality monitoring network – with more than 90 stations providing the community with accurate, up-to-date information on an hourly basis. Improvements are based on the needs of the NSW community and is led by the Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE). Information on monitoring stations expansion is included in the draft NSW Clean Air Strategy 2021-30, that was open for consultation earlier in 2021 and is currently with the Minister for Environment for review along with a submissions report. The Strategy outlines the policy and regulatory framework, the measures already in place to manage air quality and presents proposed actions.

The NSW Air Quality Monitoring Plan is reviewed every five years and updated annually. The plan ensures there is adequate coverage of populated areas within a region to characterise the air quality the general population of that region is exposed to. Further information about the monitoring station locations is available in the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Plan – 2021-2025.

A temporary monitoring station was installed in the Blue Mountains to monitor air quality during 2020. The Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch final report 2020 (PDF 2.9MB) found the region enjoys air quality that is generally very good, with air pollutants below Australian air quality standards.

Can the EPA ban woodfire heaters?

We recognise there’s a range of environmental and health impacts associated with the use of wood heaters. The policy on the use of wood fired heaters is a matter for the NSW Government. New standards introduced from September 2019 require all new solid fuel home heaters sold in NSW (locally and imported) to have at least 60 per cent efficiency. We continue to work closely with local councils who are the environmental regulators responsible for wood smoke emissions from residential properties.

A range of resources are available on our website.

How will the new EPA’s new Strategic Plan change the EPA's role in climate change and reducing greenhouse gases?

The EPA is an active government partner on climate change policy, regulation and innovation. With climate change being one of the five strategic focus areas in our Strategic Plan this means we have several new initiatives.

These range from

  • encouraging the reduction in carbon emissions
  • designing and developing programs that will enable consumer and business behaviour change
  • establishing an environment (climate change) resilience framework
  • supporting climate change disaster responses.

Regarding greenhouse gas emissions we have a role in achieving net zero. This means aiming to remove as much dangerous greenhouse gas pollution from the air as we put into it. We are committed to supporting and implementing the NSW Government's Climate Change Policy Framework and Net Zero Plan. Under the Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-2030, we’re making sure NSW achieves net zero emissions from organic waste by 2030.

We’re highly aware that combating climate change is not the role of one agency, or government, it requires a combined response by all levels of government, industry, business and the community. The EPA is currently identifying future policies, guidelines, programs, and actions it will be taking to meet our strategic plan objectives. 

We also regulate licensed industries to reduce or limit air pollution, including some greenhouse gasses and encourage major industry sectors to proactively reduce their emissions and plan for the risks of climate change.

Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan

The Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan restricts new infrastructure to four priority infrastructure areas in NSW:

  1. West Lithgow Precinct
  2. Parkes Special Activation Precinct
  3. Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Precinct
  4. Southern Goulburn Mulwaree Precinct.

Outside these areas, energy from waste will only be permitted if the facilities use waste, or waste-derived feedstock to replace less environmentally sound fuels (including coal or petroleum-based fuels) to generate energy at the site, and where that energy is used to power industrial and manufacturing processes on-site.

Energy from waste proposals are still required to comply with environmental and planning laws, including the Energy from Waste Policy Statement.

Additional energy from waste priority infrastructure areas may be identified in the future depending on whether additional energy from waste capacity is required in NSW.

All documentation related to the new Eastern Creek Energy from Waste applications are available on the NSW Governments Major Projects website (details of the previous application are also available).

For further information, refer to the frequently asked questions on energy from waste.

What is FOGO and how is the organic matter processed?

FOGO is a kerbside collection service that allows food and garden waste to be added to the green lid garden waste bin so it can be recycled into top quality compost. More than a third (about 40%) of household waste destined for NSW landfills consists of food and garden organic waste.

Our regulatory framework is designed to ensure that this material can be re-used in a way that is beneficial and does not cause harm to human health or the environment. The controls we have placed on how recycled organics are processed and used enable us to recycle this valuable resource while helping to improve soil quality.

Demand is meeting supply in many markets, including food production and sporting fields. Urban amenity remains the largest market for organic products, but there is significant growth emerging in agriculture and mine rehabilitation.

See our 15 minute video explaining the technology, process, environmental benefits and regulations control in compost production and application in NSW. You can also sign up to a free 8-module online training course covering everything you need to know about commercial composting.

  • Learn more about recycling food and garden organics at home.

How will the EPA achieve NetZero organics emissions under the WaSM Strategy?

In 2020, the NSW Government released the Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020–2030, which sets out how we will reduce our emissions by 35% by 2030, reaching net zero emissions by 2050. As part of the plan, the NSW Government committed to setting a target of net zero emissions from organic waste to landfill by 2030. This includes halving the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by 2030.

We are leading programs to support this goal by developing new policies to reduce waste going to landfills and considering programs to capture landfill gasses such as methane, under the new waste strategy.

Increased diversion of organics from landfill and processing technologies like composting and anaerobic digestion are an important first step towards reducing emissions from waste.

To help achieve this, the NSW Government will require the separate collection of:

  • food and garden organics from all NSW households by 2030
  • food waste from targeted businesses and other entities that generate the highest volumes of food waste, including large supermarkets and hospitality businesses, by 2025.

To help with the transition, the NSW Government will invest $65 million over five years from FY2023. This funding will support the rollout of new collection services, the development of more processing capacity and a statewide education campaign that will help households adjust to the changes and improve their recycling habits. The NSW Government will also provide $4 million in funding for food donation infrastructure, refrigerated vans, fridges, freezers and other equipment to store and keep food fresh for redistribution.

What is EPA doing to regulate logging in forests?

The EPA actively regulates forestry activities. We have stepped up compliance efforts pre, during and post harvesting operations to ensure a precautionary approach is being taken to forestry activities by the Forestry Corporation of NSW, to minimise environmental impacts and to ensure compliance with the rules under the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals.

Over the past 12 months we have continued to increase engagement with stakeholders and community organisations. We have done more inspections on commercial activities and responded to many pieces of correspondence regarding forestry operations. We will continue to listen and engage with the community on forestry issues.

We have brought 10 charges against Forestry Corporation NSW, with five prosecutions. Some of these matters are still under investigation and some of these are due to be finalised in the coming months. The outcomes will be published in our media releases. We recommend following our Twitter page for all media release announcements.

In the past year we have undertaken 120 forestry inspections across 43 different crown forestry operations and 36 different private native forestry operations.

What is being done to protect koalas?

The EPA works in partnership with landholders, the Forestry Corporation of NSW, Local Land Services, Environment Energy and Science, community groups and the timber industry on innovative mapping programs and research to increase knowledge of the locations of threatened species such as koalas. We aim to protect them through education, including the rules in place to protect the koalas' feed trees. The EPA also conducts a comprehensive compliance audit program to ensure the native forestry industry is obeying the law.

How is the use of native forest biomass regulated?

The Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2021 prohibits the burning of native forest biomaterial to generate electricity.

The NSW Government acknowledges that energy recovery can play a role in helping to manage legitimate residual forestry waste and the Regulation provides specific exceptions for these waste materials.

The Regulation is clear that native forest biomaterials can only be used for energy generation when it is true waste and has no potential for higher value use in NSW such as milling, engineered timbers, wildlife habitat, landscaping or erosion and sediment control. In addition, the waste hierarchy applies, where waste generation should be avoided, reused or recycled before it can be considered for energy generation.

The NSW Government will ensure laws and policies relating to the use of biomaterials for energy generation are continually improved. This will ensure they remain strong and effective in protecting the environment, and native timber is being used in NSW for its most beneficial use.

What is the EPA doing to reduce odours?

The EPA works with industry on ways to prevent odours and issues heavy fines and penalties when odour becomes an issue for neighbours of industry.

We recognise that odours can be an issue in autumn and spring and we are undertaking broad campaigns to require industry to take preventative action.

Reports from the community can play an important role in investigating odour and air-pollution incidents. The EPA responds to all complaints. Investigations can be complex and can take time to identify the source of the odour.

If you smell something and you know where it is coming from, call the business directly. If it is an EPA licensed site, the manager may be able to take immediate action. Licence holders are required to have a complaints line. You should also report to the EPA Environment Line on 131 555.

When will there be changes to the current maximum penalties?

The Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 was introduced into Parliament on 23 November 2021. The Bill proposes to vary certain environmental Acts to ensure those responsible for contamination and pollution can be made to clean it up or manage it into the future.

This includes new and increased maximum penalties to align with similar offences and highlight the severity of those crimes, particularly relating to false or misleading conduct and providing false or misleading information under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act). Maximum penalties under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 will also be increased to align with similar offences and court orders under the POEO Act.

What action is the EPA taking to reduce spray drift?

The EPA regulates the use of herbicides and pesticides in NSW, including those used in agriculture and on public land, through the Pesticides Act 1999.

Safe pesticide use relies on users following the label, applying pesticides during the appropriate weather conditions and notifying neighbours of the spraying.

We do regular campaigns and audits to educate landholders and contractors about their responsibilities and check compliance with the requirements.  The EPA can issue fines and

The community plays an important role in helping to monitor pesticide activities. Anyone with concern or knowledge of a spray drift incident or pesticide misuse in their local area should contact the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555.

We respond to all complaints received on pesticide misuse and may undertake inspections and sampling. Where appropriate evidence of pesticide misuse is found the EPA may issue a notice, fine or prosecute.

What is the EPA doing to encourage industry to reduce plastics?

The Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Bill 2021 was passed through Parliament on 30 November 2021. The Bill has created a legislative framework to stop the supply of several problematic or unnecessary plastics.

Lightweight plastic bags will be the first plastic items to be phased out in the first half of 2022, and while the large supermarkets have already embraced this change, you’ll soon also have to take your own carry bag to collect your favourite takeaway, to the corner shop and to your local retailer.

The supply of plastic single-use straws, cutlery, bowls, plates, stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems and expanded polystyrene serving ware will be banned from 1 November 2022.

The framework also sets design standards for items and it will set product stewardship requirements for brand owners to take responsibility for waste from regulated products.

The EPA will be responsible for regulation of the new framework and welcomes the opportunity to oversee its implementation.

Will there be any improvements to the EPA’s reporting process?

We have recently undertaken design and internal testing for an app that can be used by forestry stakeholders to record – in text and photo – forestry issues that can be uploaded automatically to EPA systems. This work will progress to external user testing before the end of the year.

Our Digital Transformation Program is responding to feedback that the community would like us to be transparent in the way we manage, use, share and exchange data. Scoping and design work for a ‘Report to EPA’ app is currently scheduled to start early in 2022.

Will the EPA continue its new commitment to engagement and service delivery?

The EPA is committed to improving the way it engages with stakeholders. In 2020 we have held Roadshow forums with councils, licensees, peak representative bodies and community. We are working to increase our communication and we are now issuing our EPA Connect newsletter more often.

We have developed a new Charter of Engagement that outlines our commitment to stakeholders.

  • We place people at the centre of our thinking
  • We prioritise positive behaviour change
  • We are clear and genuine when we interact with people
  • We are service oriented
  • We communicate with, not to, people and the starting point for this is listening
  • We are outcomes focused and close the feedback loop
  • We have a learning mindset

You can contact us anytime through or through

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