Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority has gone through a “once-in-a-generation” change, and now has about double the number of staff it had six years ago.
The changes began with an independent review of the EPA in 2015-16 — when the agency had 388 staff — and led to parliament passing a new Environment Protection Act in 2017.
With the new act commencing in July this year, the agency ramped up staffing to a peak of 840 staff to introduce new IT infrastructure and introduce the regulatory architecture to deliver its new responsibilities.
“There’s a real shift in focus from responding to waste and pollution incidents as they occur to really preventing those incidents from occurring in the first place,” Lee Miezis, the EPA Victoria’s chief executive officer, told The Mandarin.
“That has included the introduction of duties-based regulations. So, very similar to what has existed in occupational health and safety here in Victoria for about 10 years.”
Miezis said that staff had now been reduced to 759 full-time-equivalent roles. He said this was always the EPA’s plan as it scaled up its temporary workforce, including consultants and agency staff, to deliver the changes.
“It was always planned that we would uplift to deliver that. When the new act came into effect, the staff that came in to build the systems were no longer needed,” Miezis said.
Under the EPA’s new structure there are 636 ongoing roles, whereas at the peak of the workforce earlier in the year there were 588 ongoing positions.
“We went through three ranges of staff proposals on structures,” Miezis said.
“We have looked through our new operating model to strengthen a front line. That has meant some staff have and will exit the organisation. We have done that in line with Victoria’s public sector transition policy. A number of staff have gone elsewhere in the public service.”
Leading the EPA’s frontline team will be Ernestina Di Marco, who has taken on the agency’s chief investigator role.
The environmental crime branch includes surveillance experts, environmental protection officers, intelligence analysts, criminal investigators and prosecutors who will work together to detect, prevent and investigate environmental crime.
Di Marco has spent nearly two decades in investigator roles with Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and recently worked at Emergency Management Victoria.
“I look forward to working collaboratively with our partners to drive continuous improvement across waste crime disruption and prevention,” Di Marco said in a statement.
Miezis said it was a “once in a generation transformation” for the agency, which was now more focused on its frontline responses and on communities.
“We have more specialist and expert capabilities, a stronger regional presence — we are in a good position going forward,” Miezis said.