Environment Protection Bill 2017 (VIC)

Friday 7 July 2017 @ 12.11 p.m. | Legal Research

The Victorian Government is currently in the process of passing the Environment Protection Bill 2017 through its Parliament. The Bill has the purpose of providing for the continuation of the Environment Protection Authority in Victoria and to modernise specific objectives and structure of the body. In essence, the Bill gives effect to commitments announced by the Government following the Independent Inquiry into the Environment Protection Authority.

Independent Inquiry

The independent inquiry launched by the Government during the previous last election came in recognition of the fact that the Environment Protection Authority has not been comprehensively reviewed since its inception in 1971. As the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, provides:

“The inquiry confirmed that Victorians want a strong EPA to protect them and their environment. In particular, the inquiry confirmed that both the community and business want an independent EPA with the expertise, credibility and capability to make timely and consistent decisions based on sound science.”

As a result, the Andrews Labor Government has committed to changes to the EPA [Environment Protection Act] that would see it meet the challenges of modernity as well as future challenges that it may encounter. Ms D’Ambrosio said “Those challenges are well documented in the inquiry report, and arise from the pressure being placed on Victoria's land, water, air and other natural capital from  such factors as an increasing population, a growing and diversifying economy, rapid technological change and intensive urban development.”

The Bill

Primarily, the Bill will:

  • Introduce an objective for the EPA which is ‘to protect human health and the environment by reducing the harmful effects of pollution and waste'. This rectifies the current problem stemming from a lack of an objective making the nature and scope of the EPA unclear to the community.
  • Change the status of the EPA under the Public Administration Act 2004 to a public entity as opposed to an administrative office. Ideally, this would reinforce the EPA’s status as an independent body.
  • Replace the single member authority structure and the advisory board with a governing board of five to nine members with a range of skills, knowledge and experience.
  • Clarify the relationship between the board and the CEO by setting out their respective roles and responsibilities. The board is responsible for the governance, strategic planning and risk management of the authority. The CEO is responsible for the administration of the day to day management of the affairs of the authority.
  • Establish a statutory position of chief environmental scientist to support the EPA’s role as a science-based regulator. It also allows the government to have access to high level technical advice on environmental protection matters. 

The Bill is considered a crucial step in creating the modern frameworks for an EPA that would meet the challenges of the future. According to Ms D’Ambrosio, it ensures the EPA ‘remains  a world-leading environmental regulator into the future, focussed on protecting both Victorians and Victoria's environment from the harmful effects of pollution and waste.” 

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Environment Protection Bill 2017, Bill and Explanatory materials as published on TimeBase LawOne

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