The Shires of Central Goldfields, Buloke and Loddon make up much of Victoria’s heartland – and they’re all very close to Kristen O’Halloran’s heart. As one of EPA’s new Officers for the Protection of Local Environment (OPLEs), she has been working with three different councils on the same central issue: how to tackle pollution and waste.
What do you hope to achieve as an OPLE?
I’m hoping to help EPA improve its relationship with the council and, in turn, help community members when it comes to pollution reports that are being thrown back and forth between the two.
What have been some of the highlights so far?
During my time as an OPLE, I have been assisting all three councils with pollution reports that require advice or technical assistance from EPA. These reports can often be related to a planning permit with conditions that council has issued to a commercial or industrial premises, and I have been able to help the council enforce noise conditions by setting up a noise logger.
The pollution reports that come to me are small-to-medium-scale, lower-risk reports and are usually related to industrial waste dumping, chemical and waste liquids storage, risks to stormwater, or odour and noise. I have also been working on a strategic litter document that details how council staff should manage pollution reports of litter and illegal dumping.
What did you do before becoming an OPLE?
I worked as an environmental health officer at Loddon Shire. It mainly involved conducting inspections under the Food Act (restaurants, cafes, food trucks) and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act (accommodation and nuisances).
When and why did you first become interested in the environment?
I became interested in the environment during high school and went on to study environmental science and chemistry in Year 12, as well as health subjects.
What are the biggest challenges facing your area?
The biggest challenge facing my area is its remoteness and the distances from services. Community members are often farmers and small business owners who may not have the means to make the changes needed to comply with legislation and guidelines.
We will always work with business owners and assist them where necessary.
How did you find the four months of OPLE training?
I found the training to be very interesting but challenging at times. The mix between online and face-to-face learning was a good experience. The authorisation process was challenging, but rewarding at the end. The support from the OPLE team was exceptional. My RNSO (Regional Network Support Officer) provided me with a great deal of knowledge and I am extremely thankful for her help.
Funded by the Victorian Government, the $4.8 million OPLE pilot program has seen 11 new EPA officers assigned to 13 council areas across the state. OPLEs work hand-in-hand with council to swiftly respond to local reports of noise, odour, dust, waste dumping and storage, litter and water pollution. Read more about the work OPLEs are doing in Victoria.