The New South Wales government has appointed Rayne de Gruchy as chair of the state’s environmental regulator.
de Gruchy joins the NSW Environment Protection Authority after retiring from her most recent role as Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chief operating officer in April.
Having a “tough, independent environmental cop on the beat” is currently more important than ever, environment minister Matt Kean said on Friday.
“The people of NSW expect our environment to be protected, so our children and their children can enjoy our natural environmental assets for generations to come,” he said.
“Rayne has come from the ACCC where she led the charge protecting consumers and fearlessly prosecuting people that broke the law — I expect her to take the same approach as chair of the EPA.”
de Gruchy said she was excited to be taking on the role, commencing on September 28.
“I’m looking forward to contributing to the important work of the EPA and working with businesses, government and the community to reduce pollution and waste, protect human health, and prevent degradation of the spectacular natural environment in NSW,” she said.
Kean thanked acting chair Carolyn Walsh for her leadership and guidance over the past 14 months.
“Carolyn has been steadfast in her commitment to drive improved environmental outcomes and hold rogue operators to account, and I thank her for her exceptional stewardship and support of the EPA team throughout the challenges of the summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The EPA is reportedly considering taking action to prevent the Forestry Corporation of NSW from allowing logging to resume in sites not covered by logging agreements.
The authority recently received a letter from Department of Regional NSW and Forestry Corporation heads who argued that there has been “substantial recovery” in many coastal state forests since last summer’s bushfires.
This was despite a new EPA-commissioned independent report noting that the 2019-20 bushfires burned up to 42% of the state’s public forests, a large portion of which was important koala habitat. The report also said that forests need around 45 years to recover for koalas.
According to ABC News, the regulator thought the push to abandon logging rules was partly motivated by the direction of NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro. Barilaro is responsible for the Department of Regional NSW, and recently threatened to pull his party out of the Coalition over a koala-protection policy.