City of Wodonga

UV

Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment

Wodonga Council is part of a pilot program with the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and has an Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) position appointed at the council.

Frequently asked questions

Q. What is an OPLE?

OPLE refers to the ‘Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment’; these positions are part of a pilot program of the same name which begins on 25 September 2017 and will run for 15-months.

Q. Why was this program developed?

Local Government and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) play a vital role in responding to pollution and waste issues that compromise environmental and public health, and adversely impact liveability and amenity. As part of its response to the Independent Inquiry into the EPA, the Victorian Government has committed $4.8 million to implement a pilot program of Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLEs).  Since the release of its response, the Victorian Government has been engaging with key local government, industry and community stakeholders to gain their input into the design and rollout of the pilot program. All Victorian councils were invited to submit an Expression of Interest to participate in the pilot program.

Q. What is the OPLE’s scope?

The OPLE will respond to reports from local community and businesses on lower risk pollution issues that can be investigated/regulated under the Environment Protection Act 1970. Key focus areas are intended to be commercial and industrial sources of: • noise • odour • dust • waste • litter. The OPLE will engage with local stakeholders to raise environmental compliance and awareness on these issues. OPLEs will require that any risks and impacts identified are remedied, and where necessary, will collect evidence to support any sanctions that may be issued by EPA. The OPLE may also have a role in providing technical assistance to council in areas where relevant experience and expertise are not already available.

Q. The Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLEs) pilot program is scheduled to begin in September. How will this pilot work?

A. This pilot program will see ten officers authorised under the Environment Protection Act 1970 embedded within local councils across the State. While EPA will employ the OPLEs, participating councils will have significant input into the candidate selected for their municipality. EPA will maintain overall oversight of the OPLE activities, work quality and consistency through its central support team at EPA’s Carlton office and regional offices. Specialist technical advice will also be provided by EPA’s Applied Science Directorate so issues can be identified on the ground and appropriate remedial actions taken.

Q. How will the responsibilities of OPLEs and EPA’s authorised officers differ?

A. On a day-to-day basis, OPLEs will be managed by nominated council supervisors.  The OPLE will respond to reports from local community and businesses on lower risk pollution issues able to be investigated/regulated using EPA legislation. These reports will, in the first instance, be channeled through councils to OPLEs for action. Key focus areas are intended to be small scale commercial and industrial sources of pollution and waste, with the potential to provide technical assistance to council in areas where relevant experience and expertise are not already available. OPLEs will also engage with local stakeholders to raise environmental compliance and awareness. EPA’s authorised officers will continue to address and investigate higher risk and complexity waste and pollution issues with the potential to impact on the environment and human health. OPLEs will be responsible for addressing lower risk and lower complexity localised pollution and waste issues e.g. odour from local spray painters, small scale dumped building waste, dust from subdivision work.

Q. How will the OPLE pilot be evaluated and by whom?

A. EPA is delivering the monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement plan for the program in consultation with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, with the core objectives of: improving responses (immediate and planned) to pollution and complaints; improving industry compliance with their obligations; increasing proactive and preventative measures (to prevent harm in the first place) and improving the capability and relationships between local government and EPA.

 

 


Last updated: 11-10-2017

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