Department of Water and Environmental Regulation COVID-19 update

Guidance
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 impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All systems go @ DWER

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, DWER has undertaken a great deal of work to maintain and improve our services. Our main aim is to ensure Western Australians can respond to, and recover from, the challenges of COVID-19 and to support the WA Recovery Plan.

During the peak of Western Australia’s Phase 1 and 2 response to the pandemic, we maintained and, in some cases, improved our performance in key areas such as assessing applications for licences and works approvals. Since the pandemic began, we have also accelerated and refocused our reform efforts to streamline regulatory processes, including implementing a tiered assessment approach for vegetation clearing and industry regulation. This is designed to ensure assessment backlogs are addressed and to provide more timely delivery in the future. Our decision reports have been updated and training rolled out to standardise and accelerate assessment and report writing timeframes. 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.

Implementation of our Water Licensing Backlog Action Plan has continued driving a significant reduction in the number of water licence applications open for a period of more than 65 days – driving a new record low in 2019 that was well below our performance target, and the average time to process a water licence has also been substantially reduced.

EPA services has also managed high 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.

For more information on our business performance read the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation Annual Report 2019-20.

Working arrangements

Thanks to the border restriction in WA, we have been able to move to Phase 4 of the State’s roadmap to recovery and we are keeping up with any changes to physical distancing advice and applying that to how we work and provide our services.

While we can request meetings with staff are conducted through video or teleconferencing, we are able to have face to face meetings in our offices as long as social distancing and room capacity guidelines are adhered to.

Compliance and Enforcement

Compliance audits, investigations and waste monitoring continue to be undertaken. Since the declaration of the State of Emergency in March 2020, 60 warning letters and two infringements have been issued. Twenty-one convictions have also been recorded and further 38 prosecutions initiated for offences under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and associated regulations. Pollution reports continue to be received and responded to.

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.

Project status update

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some significant projects and priorities to be deferred or changed. Below is an update on some major projects affected by COVID-19.

  • Containers for Change (container deposit scheme) – after being deferred in June the scheme is set to launch on 1 October 2020. More information is available on our website.
  • 2020 Infinity Awards event – these have been delayed and an announcement on the award winners will instead be made later in the year.

Consultations update

  • Some timelines for consultations have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In all cases stakeholders have been advised of the new timelines moving forward.
  • For an up-to-date list of the department’s consultations, visit our consultation hub.

Environment Online

We have continued to build our regulatory capability, with work progressing on Environment Online – a customer-focused, digital one stop shop for environmental assessment, approvals and compliance for industry and developers in Western Australia. In May 2020, the State Government committed an additional $12.4 million to complete this initiative, adding to the Australian Government’s $7.5 million in funding and the department’s $8.1 million – resulting in total funding of $28 million.

For more information on Environment Online visit the department’s webpage.

Green Jobs Plan

The department is delivering the State Government’s Green Jobs Plan, which will invest more than $60 million in environmental projects, creating more than 1,000 conservation jobs State-wide as part of the WA Recovery Plan.

A $3.3 million funding round for conservation work for Pilbara Aboriginal and conservation groups is being made available through the department managed Pilbara Environmental Offsets Fund. The fund combines offset contributions from mining companies to enable strategic conservation programs that improve vegetation and biodiversity outcomes in the Pilbara.

The state's rivers and estuaries will also benefit from the Green Jobs Plan through the $25 million State Government investment in the Healthy Estuaries WA program to continue our world class estuary health initiative in the Peel, South-West and Great Southern regions. The program 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. For more information, visit our website.

Page reviewed 1 October 2020