OPLE pilot soars into new territory

Ten council areas from Baw Baw to Ballarat will receive extra assistance to tackle local pollution issues with the expansion of the Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) pilot project.

In May, the Victorian Government provided $3.4 million to the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) to expand the successful pilot until June 2020.

The pilot sees authorised officers embedded within councils to respond to issues of noise, dust, odour and waste management arising from small to medium sized businesses. The officers also equip communities and industry with the knowledge and skills to help prevent, identify and resolve environmental issues.

After a competitive Expressions of Interest period, EPA has selected ten councils to work with eight new OPLEs, who are currently being recruited.

The councils are:

– Hume City

– City of Whittlesea

– City of Maribyrnong

– Kingston City

– Mornington Peninsula Shire

– Latrobe City and Baw Baw Shire, to share

– City of Melton and Moorabool Shire, to share

– City of Ballarat, to share with the existing pilot council Central Goldfields Shire

Lodden and Buloke shire councils, which were sharing with Central Goldfields Shire, will retain their OPLE, as will the other 11 original councils.

Since hitting the ground running last year, the OPLEs have completed 1031 inspections, handled 819 pollution reports and issued 101 notices and 9 sanctions.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the pilot improved information sharing and increased capacity within councils and communities.

“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,” she 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.”

The new OPLEs will undergo training later this year before being authorised early next year.

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