Search begins for new local gems

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is encouraging local councils to apply to be part of the innovative Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) pilot project.

EPA has received $3.4 million from the Victorian State Government to expand the pilot, recruiting 4-6 extra OPLEs for 4-10 partner councils.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said the current 12 OPLEs helped their 13 partner councils to respond to reports of pollution and waste and proactively addressed emerging issues.

In their first 14 months, the OPLEs completed 857 inspections of 605 sites and served 81 notices.

Local community issues, such as water pollution and management, noise and illegal dumping and odour were common areas the officers dealt with.

Dr Wilkinson said the new OPLEs and council areas would also help EPA combat illegal industrial and chemical waste stockpiling.

“OPLEs respond to issues relating to noise, dust and odour and waste management issues arising from small to medium size businesses,” she said.

“OPLEs also provide local industry, business and community members with the knowledge and skills they need to help prevent, identify and resolve environmental issues.

“They are authorised officers, placed in local council, who have powers under the Environment Protection Act to issue pollution abatement and clean up notices and can escalate serious offences to EPA for larger sanctions.”

Dr Wilkinson said current participating councils had reported improved response times to pollution reports and increased collaboration, information sharing and expertise since the OPLEs began work in February 2018.

“Most importantly, the OPLEs are getting real results for residents, by resolving issues which are most likely to affect the liveability of our towns and suburbs,” she said.

The new partner councils will be chosen following an expression of interest period, which closes on Wednesday, July 10.

All Victorian councils are eligible to apply, and councils may apply to share an OPLE with a neighbouring council though both councils will need to complete application form.

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