The Beagle Editor, Your readers might find our latest media release of interest. go figure …
According to its website, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is
“…the primary environmental regulator for New South Wales. We partner with business, government & the community to reduce pollution & waste, protect human health, & prevent degradation of the environment.”
Seems pretty straight forward … at least until one gets up close & personal.
The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) has had a number of dealings with the EPA over the years & has found it to be largely no different to the many other arms of government that ordinary members of the community have to contend with: more often than not, long on promise, but short on delivery.
As is so often the case in dealing with bureaucratic representatives of government, the experience is a function of the attitude & sense of responsibilities of the particular employee one encounters. In other words, one can be “lucky” or not so lucky.
For example, back in 2015, members of the Eden community were having difficulty in persuading Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) to investigate the possible presence of toxic contaminants buried at the old Eden Tip, previously operated by Imlay Shire Council. Given the disinterest shown by council, the BVSRRA sought the assistance of the EPA & it mounted a full investigation of the site & the surrounding area. As part of that process, the EPA also consulted with the local community & ultimately resolved its concerns.
More recently, the BVSRRA contacted the EPA to ascertain if it would intervene in the management of issues by council involving the repeated contamination of the back lake in Merimbula through the influx of sediment from a subdivision being developed in Mirador.
Following the first incident, BVSC claimed to have taken action to remedy the issue. Whatever that action was, it was immediately followed by another incident. Of course, notwithstanding its hollow claims & ineffective action, BVSC declined to impose any penalty on the developer responsible.
In response to the BVSRRA’s inquiry, the EPA confirmed that:
“The Protection of the Environment Operations Act (POEO Act)1997 assigns environmental regulatory responsibility to a range of State and Local Government authorities depending on whether an activity is being carried on by a publicly owned corporation, government (state or local) organisation, at a premises licensed by the EPA or by any other person. As the development at Mirador is being carried on by private companies/persons, the EPA does not have any regulatory jurisdiction in respect to development.”
When the BVSRRA asked the EPA what residents & ratepayers could do if they weren’t happy with council’s management of the issue, it simply suggested that they could pursue a complaint with the Ombudsman. Anyone who has had experience dealing with the NSW Ombudsman’s Office does not need to be told by the BVSRRA what a waste of time that would be.
Of course, the real point here is the contrasting responses evidenced by the EPA. On the one hand responsive, interested & helpful; on the other, disinterested & unhelpful.
And not only do residents & ratepayers have to deal with inconsistent standards of service offered by the EPA & a myriad of other government agencies, they also have to contend with a confusing array of bureaucratic arrangements just to try & figure out who is responsible.
The full text of this Media Release is available here …
Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association