Water and Environmental Regulation Annual Report 2020–21

Annual report
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s annual report details our achievements each financial year.

Our 2020–21 annual report provides a snapshot of our performance and achievements, containing information on our operations, financial reports and more.

It highlights our efforts to ensure Western Australia’s water resources and environment are healthy and able to support our growing state.

This year, we continued to focus on the State Government’s priority areas of waste and recycling, climate change and liveability, while furthering its commitment to improved water and environmental regulation outcomes. We progressed our ‘one stop shop’ vision for the department, streamlining water and environmental approvals, improving services to the community and planning for some of the biggest challenges facing our state. 

We also focused on building our relationships with industry and the community to determine priorities and discover where and how we can work better and more efficiently.
 

Highlights

  • EP Amendment Act 2020
  • Climate Action
  • WA Recovery Plan and Green Jobs
  • Cross-government initiatives
  • Containers for Change
  • Plan for Plastics
  • Water milestones
  • Groundwater allocation plans
  • Supporting regional areas
  • Waterwise Perth Action Plan
  • Healthy Estuaries WA program

We also supported the Waste Authority, Environmental Protection Authority, Keep Australia Beautiful Council and Cockburn Sound Management Council in their key roles.

Director General foreword

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Report summary

I am delighted to present the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s 2020–21 annual report.

It reflects our work on the Government of Western Australia's priority areas of waste and recycling, climate change and liveability, while furthering its commitment to improved water and environmental regulation outcomes.

It is also a result of our staff maintaining their high standards under the shadow of the COVID‑19 pandemic. They transitioned seamlessly to working from home during three snap lockdowns in the Perth and Peel regions, adapted to wearing face masks and social distancing practices in our offices, and found
new ways to engage with stakeholders, maintain service delivery and carry out fieldwork.

They ensured the department was open for business even if it was not quite business as usual, and I applaud their professionalism and commitment to public service.

You will find a thorough account of our operations in this report. However, I would like to highlight some achievements:

EP Amendment Act 2020

We are implementing the most significant reforms to the state’s environmental legislation in more than 30 years through the Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2020, which received Royal Assent on 19 November 2020. The amendments include streamlining the environmental impact assessment process, improving the pathway for regulation of native vegetation clearing, improving the efficiency of regulating emissions and discharges, modernising and improving investigation and enforcement powers, and increasing penalties for certain environmental offences.

Climate Action

We took a lead role in the new Climate Action portfolio, which was announced in March 2021 as the State Government underlined its commitment to tackling climate change. This follows the department’s release of the Western Australian Climate Policy, and the State Electric Vehicle Strategy.

WA Recovery Plan and Green Jobs

We played a vital part in the State Government’s WA Recovery Plan to counter the effects of COVID‑19. We delivered four of the seven programs under the $60 million Green Jobs Plan, creating job opportunities while delivering environmental benefits. We were also an enabling agency for infrastructure initiatives such as road programs.

Cross‑government initiatives

We supported important cross‑government initiatives. We are leading the Wooroloo bushfires clean‑up, and identified contamination risks as part of the Tropical Cyclone Seroja response. We are working with METRONET to support a sustainability approach, and on the Westport project we are leading the research planning to minimise the environmental impact on Cockburn Sound and surrounds. Through Streamline WA, meanwhile, we are making it easier to do business in our state by improving regulatory practice.

Containers for Change

We launched the state’s container deposit scheme, Containers for Change, on 1 October 2020. With 205 refund points in place and more than 680 people employed, up to the end of June a staggering 535 million eligible beverage containers were recycled – each generating a 10‑cent refund, with more than $1.9 million donated to charities and community groups.

Plan for Plastics

We released the Plan for Plastics policy in November 2020, a project which was then fast‑tracked in June 2021. The new timeframe will see many single‑use plastics phased out by the end of 2022, four years earlier than planned. We established a working group of representatives from the disability, aged‑care, medical, retail and environmental sectors to ensure people who require plastic straws to meet their life needs can be assured of a continued supply.

Waste Authority and KABC support

We supported the Waste Authority as, among many projects, it launched the ‘Be a GREAT sort’ behaviour change campaign to reduce landfill. We also supported the Keep Australia Beautiful Council as it released the Litter Prevention Strategy for Western Australia 2020–2025.

EPA support

Our officers prepared environmental impact assessments, cumulative impact studies, statutory policies and strategic advice to support the work of the independent Environmental Protection Authority, which received the highest number of referrals for development proposals in six years.

Water milestones

Our precious water resources are being impacted by climate change, particularly in the state’s South West. But we marked a significant milestone with the completion of a five‑year program to introduce water metering and measurement to water licences above 10,000 kilolitres. We also developed a code of practice requiring water service providers to support and protect customers affected by family violence.

Groundwater allocation plans

We developed groundwater allocation plans to ensure this resource is used sustainably by businesses and the public, releasing the final Cockburn groundwater area allocation plan, consulting on proposals for Derby and the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley, and preparing the next Gnangara plan.

Supporting regional areas

We helped regional areas better cope with reduced rainfall caused by climate change. Our total investment reached $3.7 million as we carted water for emergency livestock needs in up to 12 water deficiency declared areas. We also invested $915,902 through the Community Water Supply Program, and $741,890 through the Rural Water Planning works program.

Waterwise Perth Action Plan

We influenced strategic land planning to avoid impacts on our vegetation, habitat and water resources. We are encouraging waterwise urban design, work that has been enhanced through the Waterwise Perth Action Plan.

Healthy Estuaries WA program

Our work as stewards of estuaries and inland waterways continued through the $25 million Healthy Estuaries WA program. This will be extended through additional funding to implement the Peel‑Harvey Estuary Protection Plan, or Bindjareb Djilba in the local Bindjareb Noongar language, a 2017 election commitment released in November 2020.


As you will read in the following pages, many of these achievements involved significant collaboration with other government agencies and I would like to highlight our work with the Department of Finance on two key contracts – system integrator and program management services – for our important Environment Online project.

I was also delighted to learn that our most recent research into community, customer and stakeholder perceptions shows the increased focus on meeting stakeholders’ needs has coincided with improvements in the satisfaction rating for many areas of our business.

Meanwhile, our commitment to business excellence has seen our Finance team recognised by the Auditor General as a best‑practice large entity for timeliness and quality of reporting, financial reporting and controls. The Keep Australia Beautiful Council, which our Finance team supports, received the same recognition in the small entity category. You can see their latest efforts in our financial statements, which start on page 82.

Most of these achievements were under the leadership of my predecessor as Director General, Mike Rowe. In taking over from Mike under the State Government’s senior leadership renewal in May 2021, I appreciate the ground he covered over the past four years, particularly in merging three agencies into one.

I can assure you the department will continue with its commitment of service improvement and excellence, and we have been busy setting our directions for the next three years as we develop a new Strategic Plan.

I look forward to working with you in 2021–22.

Michelle Andrews
Director General

Documents

DWER Annual report 2020-21 disclosures and legal compliance
Page reviewed 12 October 2021