Review of the EPA Review

17 Jan 2024

Discussion Paper of Review of EPA Processes and Procedures

While the recent recommendations in the Vogel-McFerran “Review of WA Environmental Approvals Processes and Procedures” in December 2023 offer constructive suggestions for enhancing the environmental assessment processes, it’s essential to acknowledge potential shortcomings and challenges associated with their implementation. Here are some shortcomings to consider that will make its introduction a slow process, that will flow through to delays in industry.

Resistance to Cultural Shift

Shifting the organizational culture, as suggested in Recommendation 6, is a gradual process that encounters resistance. The time required for staff to adapt and fully embrace a new culture may prolong the implementation process.

Legislative Amendments

Proposing amendments to the EP Act (Recommendations 13, 28, 33) involves a lengthy legislative process, including consultations, parliamentary debates, and potential revisions. This could considerably slow down the implementation of these key changes.

Coordination Challenges

Centralizing referral management, as proposed in Recommendation 8, may encounter bureaucratic hurdles and resistance from different departments and agencies. Achieving coordination and consensus might take time, slowing down the restructuring process.

Public Participation Processes

Recommendations emphasizing public participation (Recommendations 10, 11) may extend the assessment timelines due to the need for thorough consultations. Ensuring meaningful engagement with stakeholders could contribute to a more protracted decision-making process.

Legal and Regulatory Challenges

Legislative changes and amendments (e.g., Recommendation 13, 28) often face legal scrutiny and may be subject to legal challenges, potentially prolonging the implementation timeline as the legal process unfolds.

Organizational Restructuring

The restructuring of DWER and the creation of a centralized referral management unit (Recommendation 8) requires careful planning and execution. The actual implementation, including staff reassignment and adjustments, can be a time-consuming process.

Inadequate Consultation with Stakeholders

Relying on external expertise (Recommendation 20) and potentially limiting consultation with advisory committees (Recommendation 26) may slow down the process if there is insufficient buy-in from stakeholders or if their input is not adequately considered.

Overemphasis on Short-Term Solutions

Implementing short-term solutions, such as expedited assessments through external expertise (Recommendation 15b), might provide quick fixes but may not address the root causes of inefficiencies, potentially prolonging the need for more comprehensive reforms.

Capacity Building

Recommendations focusing on capacity building, such as the development of recruitment and training strategies (Recommendations 1, 2, 4), entail time-consuming processes to attract, train, and integrate skilled personnel into the system.

Data Sharing and Technological Implementation

Urgently accelerating the implementation of technology solutions like Environment Online (Recommendation 23) or introducing performance metrics (Recommendation 31) may be hindered by technical challenges and the need for meticulous planning.

Cultural Considerations

The recommendations addressing cultural considerations (Recommendations 37a, 38) involve complex issues that require in-depth consultations. Ensuring a holistic approach to Aboriginal cultural values may extend the decision-making timeline.

Acknowledging the potential slow implementation of these recommendations is crucial, as it allows for realistic expectations and proactive planning to address challenges as they arise during the reform process.

Environmental Essentials course on the 21st and 22nd March.