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The Victorian Government has provided a further $3.4 million to expand the OPLE program until June 2020. The expanded program will allow for a further four to six new OPLEs to be placed in four to ten additional councils, and councils can nominate to share an OPLE with another council.
OPLEs work closely with EPA and their local council(s) to respond to smaller-scale and lower risk waste and pollution complaints relating to small to medium scale illegal dumping, litter, noise, dust and odour arising from smaller business and industry. OPLEs:
- are authorised under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enable their effective response to pollution reports such as by requiring remedial action or abatement activities to be undertaken
- are authorised to gather evidence to assist with sanctioning and prosecutions, which are led by EPA
- have clearly defined roles and responsibilities to complement the existing work of other EPA and council officers. do not undertake roles which are clearly that of local councils, but complement the work councils already do in environment and public health protection. Issues which require highly complex or technical responses are referred to EPA.
OPLEs’ duties include responding to reports, information and education activities to support prevention of pollution, and proactive inspections of premises to support compliance. They help to fill the gap between the localised work currently undertaken by councils and the higher risk work undertaken by EPA.
The priorities and exact activities undertaken by OPLEs are influenced by the unique local characteristics and needs of the municipality or municipalities which the OPLE is servicing, within the defined parameters of the OPLE pilot.
OPLEs are direct employees of EPA embedded within local councils.
The presence of an OPLE in council does not affect EPA’s commitment and responsibilities for compliance, enforcement and preventative action to minimise pollution and waste from larger, more complex sites. EPA continues to triage pollution reports and respond, ensuring there is no reduction in the services currently provided, whilst increasing support and resourcing to councils through the OPLE pilot.
EPA's role is:
- to oversee and coordinate the OPLE network, and provides technical support and guidance materials to support the OPLEs
- train OPLEs, who will subsequently be appointed as authorised officers under the Environment Protection Act 1970
- provide councils with specialised technical equipment necessary for OPLEs to undertake their role
- provide links into EPA’s IT systems to assist with reporting incidents and facilitating effective responses
- provide technical day-to-day instruction to OPLEs
- provide a central help desk which OPLEs can directly access to support them in their role.
There is also a clear process for OPLEs and councils to refer more complex and higher risk issues to EPA for response. Where there is a potential conflict of interest with other council operations, EPA remains responsible for any investigative action.
Authorised officer training is blended learning program involving mentoring by experienced EPA officers, in-field/on-the-job training, e-learning and face-to-face training workshops and practicals in Melbourne.
Participating councils host an OPLE in their offices, support their day-to-day operations, and integrate them into their council.
Councils are required to provide support to the OPLE, including:
- provide a manager to oversee the OPLE's day-to-day activities
- provide office accommodation within a council office, suitable IT and business support for the OPLE to undertake their role
- support the OPLE to engage with other relevant areas of council
- provide input into the program reporting, monitoring and evaluation
- provide the OPLE with key information about their municipality
- provide access to a vehicle.
Councils typically need to allocate approximately 10 hours a month, for meetings, and reporting requirements. Councils will be called upon to actively engage with EPA during the project.
Expressions of interest (EOI)
Applicants are required to complete the EOI application form. All applications must be submitted by email to OPLEpilot@epa.vic.gov.au by 5 pm on Wednesday 10 July 2019.
All Victorian local councils (as defined by the Local Government Act 1989) are eligible to apply. Please use the Expression of Interest application form (form F1016).
Councils who are currently participating in the OPLE pilot will not need to reapply - their participation will be rolled over into the expanded pilot.
If a participating council wishes to partner with a new council, the new council is required to submit an application. The council who is currently participating in the pilot will not be required to submit an application form, but needs to confirm their intention to partner with a new council.
The selection criteria will be assessed against information provided in the application form, as well as data held by EPA.
The selection criteria include:
- the environmental and public health risks and challenges experienced in the council area
- the council's demonstrated commitment to improving its response to pollution an waste issues arising with the municipality
- the likely value to the council, its community and businesses from having an OPLE, and how the OPLE would assist in responding to pollution and waste issues
- the council's capacity and capability to actively support and OPLE located in its office
- willingness of the council to actively support the delivery of the OPLE pilot, including reporting, monitoring and evaluation requirements
- location of the council
- prevalence of illegal industrial and chemical waste stockpiling in the municipality.
11 June 2019
5pm Wednesday 10 July 2019
Successful councils notified
New OPLEs start