THE terms of reference for a public review of Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA), announced last week by the Minister Lisa Neville, fit exactly the concerns that affected Korumburra residents have had about the EPA.
In fact, the members of the ‘Our Korumburra’ action group are already preparing to make a formal complaint to the State Ombudsman about the EPA and its response to concerns about environmental issues at the local Burra Foods plant.
A spokesperson for the group, Elizabeth Jones, said she would be asking members at the next scheduled meeting, on Thursday, May 28, whether they thought there was value in also making a submission to the inquiry.
“As disappointed as we are with the failure of the EPA to properly monitor activities at the factory and also to respond to the community’s concerns when there are incidents there, we do appreciate that it is also an issue of resourcing for the EPA,” she said.
Ms Jones said the group was presently in consultation with the EPA about the setting up of a local Community Environmental Committee, along the lines of one set up in the Bass Gas area, and was also set to receive a formal response from the EPA about incidents at the plant.
Last week, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Ms Neville announced that the public review of the EPA was about to commence following the appointment of an advisory committee led by former Secretary of the Department of Justice, Penny Armytage.
She said the review would examine the powers and resourcing of the state’s environmental regulator and ensure the authority “is best prepared to act on community concerns and tackle modern day challenges such as pollution and contamination”.
Jane Brockington, former CEO of the 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission, and Janice Van Reyk, non-executive director of Northern Territory EPA, will join Ms Armytage to form the review’s advisory committee.
“The committee will work with the EPA Board to examine the most appropriate role for the regulator in protecting the environment and safeguarding public health as our population and economy grows.
“The review is due to commence in June 2015 and present a report to the government by the end of March 2016, which will then be considered and publically responded to,” Ms Neville said.
“We’re making sure the EPA is equipped to provide a healthy environment, which will ensure the best quality of life for our communities.
“The relevant legislation is almost 46 years old. This is about ensuring the regulator keeps up with the times and has the powers and resources it needs to do its job.
“The advisory committee will seek the views of the community, industry and workers in relevant industries before providing its recommendations to the government.”
The catalyst for the review of the EPA came out of its problematic response to the Hazelwood Mine Fire of February 2014 but has been necessarily widened due to issues elsewhere as well. To that list you can add Korumburra, according to the local committee.