Council wants State to continue funding local environmental regulation program


Brimbank Council is calling on the Victorian Government to continue supporting a pilot program introduced last year as part of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) reforms to provide more effective regulation of environmental issues.

The $4.8 million ‘Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment’ (OPLE) program was funded by the Victorian Government last year as a 15-month pilot program, in which EPA officers were assigned to 13 councils around the state.

Brimbank Mayor Cr Margaret Giudice said that Brimbank needs the program to continue if it is to make a real difference.

“In the months since the OPLE program has been active for Brimbank, the OPLE officer has been making headway in investigating smaller scale environmental issues and has issued multiple clean up notices to businesses.

“However, we’ve had a delayed start in Brimbank as the OPLE officer we share with Hobsons Bay only became an authorised officer of the EPA in January 2018, after intensive EPA training and assessment.”

OPLE authorised officers have important powers which include the power of entry, inspection and assessment of compliance, issuing inspection reports and remedial notices.

“We’re concerned that our municipality will not get the full benefits of the OPLE work program unless the program continues beyond the initial 15-month period.

“Council will be writing to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio, to advocate for continued funding of the OPLE program, including funding for the officer at Brimbank City Council,” Cr Giudice said.

A Notice of Motion was tabled at the Ordinary Council Meeting on Tuesday 17 April, calling on Council to advocate with the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change for continued funding for the OPLE pilot program including funding for the placement of the OPLE at Brimbank Council.

In moving the motion, Cr Virginia Tachos stressed that there would be a setback to faster environmental issue resolution if the State Government OPLE program ended.

“The OPLE program is an important step in building stronger relationships between the EPA and Councils, and in speeding up the resolution of local environmental problems.

“Brimbank has invested significant time and resources to ensure the OPLE officer role is effective and achieves good environmental outcomes for the community, and it’s disappointing that the pilot program will end in just a few short months.

“We’re asking the State Government to continue funding the OPLE program as it has so much potential to have a big impact on resolving smaller scale environmental issues,” Cr Tachos said.

Brimbank Council and Hobsons Bay currently share an OPLE officer who responds to smaller scale and lower risk waste and pollution complaints, including illegal dumping, litter, noise, dust and odours from smaller business and industry.