Department of Water and Environmental Regulation COVID-19 update

Guidance
A great deal of work is being undertaken to maintain and improve our services and in doing so help Western Australia respond to, and recover from, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Improved timelines and major project greenlights: it's all systems go @ DWER

A great deal of work is being undertaken to maintain and improve our services and in doing so help Western Australia respond to, and recover from, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We recently held our Regulatory Stakeholder Reference Group, entirely via video conference for the first time, with positive feedback all round. It’s gratifying to see how we can adapt and find new ways of working when the need arises.

In Industry Regulation licensing and works approvals, our long term work and short term pivot has seen the timelines reduce from 95 days at the end of last financial year, down to 83 days for the first two quarters of this financial year, and this most recent quarter, achieving down to 65 days. We have also accelerated and refocused our reform effort on streamlining regulatory processes, including implementing a tiered assessment approach for clearing and industry regulation. This is designed to ensure assessment backlogs are addressed and to provide more timely delivery into the future.

In recent weeks, our decision reports have been updated and training rolled out to standardise and accelerate assessment and report writing timeframes. You will see the new templates as decisions are made over the coming weeks. Our Regulatory Reform Teams are always working to continuously improve and any feedback you may have can be sent to betterregulatorypractice@dwer.wa.gov.au.

EPA services has managed to maintain 95 per cent service capacity during COVID-19. This has been critical to managing a workload similar to the same time last year across most areas, and busier in others including scheme referrals requiring determinations. An average turnaround time of 20 days has been achieved in these in the first quarter of 2020.

Compliance and enforcement

Since the declaration of the State of Emergency in March 2020, 18 warning letters and 16 prosecutions have been initiated and 2 convictions have been recorded for offences under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and associated regulations.

Compliance audits, investigations and waste monitoring continue to be undertaken. Pollution reports continue to be received and processed.

Containers for Change

The Minister for Environment announced the container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, will launch in October 2020.

Boosted by a financial assistance package of up to $3.55 million to provide financial support in the meantime for eligible network participants, it’s fantastic to see this important project on the move again. More information is available on our website.

Healthy Estuaries

We’ve also been able to continue our world class estuary health initiative in the Peel, South-West and Great Southern regions, with the $25million Healthy Estuaries WA program.

As Water Minister Dave Kelly said;; "while there are 166 estuaries in Western Australia, it is the estuaries in the south-west of the State that are the most heavily impacted by housing, agriculture, industry and recreation.

"The future of effective estuarine and catchment management in the south-west will rely heavily on continued community support and effective engagement with estuary stakeholders."

Healthy Estuaries will build on the effective partnerships with regional natural resources management groups, local governments, industry and community stakeholders already established through the award winning Regional Estuaries Initiative and Revitalising Geographe Waterways programs.

Reconciliation in Action

Since I last wrote to you the department has marked National Reconciliation Week, an important milestone and a chance for us all to consider the central part Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples play in both the history and future of our nation.

The week has become a big annual event in our community and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000; when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation, to show their support for a more reconciled Australia.

But for DWER, the week also marked the first anniversary of the publication of our inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) containing the 50 commitments we pledged to meet within a two year time span. I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made and it was a great opportunity to refresh our efforts for the next 12 months.

Working arrangements

As we move into Phase 3 of the roadmap to recovery, we are keeping up with changes to physical distancing advice and applying that to how we work and provide our services.

While we have requested meetings with staff be conducted through video or teleconferencing for the past few months, we are re-assessing this moving forward and will be communicating any changes as they happen.

Of course, our online systems remain available and we encourage you to keep using them.

The department is committed to the management and protection of our state’s environment and water resources, while supporting and enabling Western Australia’s social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project status update

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some significant projects and priorities to be deferred or changed. These include:

  • Containers for Change (container deposit scheme) – after being deferred in June the scheme will launch 1 October.
  • Feedback is now being sought on a new draft Guideline: Better practice composting, which sets out the department’s information requirements for the composting industry and how regulation under Part V of the EP Act will achieve the objectives of the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 (Waste Strategy 2030). Further information and links to the consultation page are available here.
  • Consultation on the waste levy review has been extended by two months until 15 July 2020 and the Closing the loop consultation paper is available.
  • 2020 Infinity Awards – these have been cancelled for this year.
  • Release of a draft Native Vegetation Policy and publication of issues paper submissions is delayed to respond to consultation restrictions. Stakeholders are being advised of new timelines moving forward.

Regulation

Statutory obligations remain in place, including water and environmental licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities. It is recommended that all licence, permit and other approval holders create and adopt a business continuity plan to help meet their statutory responsibilities.

If you anticipate any significant risk to your ability to comply with your statutory responsibilities, under environmental and water legislation, please notify us by emailing compliance@dwer.wa.gov.au

Further Information

More information will be available as the situation evolves in the coming weeks and our key stakeholders and business contacts will be informed of developments through individual DWER business areas.

We would like to thank our clients, stakeholders and the wider community for your understanding as we work together through this challenging time.

Page reviewed 25 June 2020
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