Ballarat will benefit from an extra eye on environmental issues thanks to a pilot project between the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and the City of Ballarat.
The pilot sees EPA authorised officers, known as Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE), embedded within councils to respond to issues of noise, dust, odour and waste management arising from small to medium-size businesses.
The officers also equip communities and industry with the knowledge and skills to help prevent, identify and resolve environmental issues.
The City of Ballarat was selected as one of ten new councils to join the pilot program and will share an OPLE with existing pilot council Central Goldfields Shire, which will separate from Loddon and Buloke shire councils’ OPLE partnership.
Recruiting is currently underway for the new OPLE who, after training later this year, will hit the ground running early next year.
EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson welcomed Ballarat to the pilot program.
“The pilot has already resulted in reduced response times to reports and improved industry compliance, and we’re excited about building on this further in the second phase of the pilot,” Dr Wilkinson said.
“As well as responding to issues such as dust, noise and odour, which have the potential to greatly affect liveability, the OPLEs will also be a valuable part of EPA’s increased focus on preventing and identifying illegal stockpiling and disposal of waste.”
“We’re committed to being closely connected with the communities we serve and empowering and encouraging them to assist us to prevent harm from pollution and waste.”
City of Ballarat Director Infrastructure and Environment Terry Demeo said Council was excited to be offered the opportunity to participate in the OPLE pilot program.
“The City of Ballarat places great value in establishing improved networks between Council, EPA, industry and community to increase awareness and provide education in the management of environmental pollution within the municipality,” Mr Demeo said.
Central Goldfields General Manager Infrastructure Assets and Planning Rebecca Stockfeld said the program had been hugely successful and “we are really pleased to be part of this program with Ballarat”.
“Central Goldfields Shire Council is proud to have participated in the OPLE program for the past two years and we are looking forward to continuing our partnership with the EPA,” she said.
The pilot is currently funded until June 2020.