|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
The Environment Protection Authority was constituted under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and came into being on 1 July 1971 although the bulk of the Act, enabling it to carry out its functions, was not proclaimed until 1 March 1973. The Authority was established to act as the central pollution control agency in Victoria. Pollution control had previously been the responsibility of a number of state and local government agencies which had led to major problems of co-ordination.
Section 13 of the Act set out seventeen powers, duties and functions. The first two established the Authority's broad objectives;
to administer the Act and to be responsible for and co-ordinate all activities relating to the discharge of wastes, the prevention and control of pollution and the protection and improvement of the environment. The Authority stated its aim as "to protect and improve the air, land and water environments for the people of Victoria through management of wastes, control of noise and prevention of pollution".
threats to air quality
threats to water quality
The remaining fifteen functions in Section 13 set out specific activities. These are:
the issuing of licenses to control the volume, type, constituents and effects of waste, emissions, deposits and other pollutants.
the specification of standards and criteria for the protection and maintenance of the quality of the environment including the taking of samples and regular testing and monitoring;
the conduct and co-ordination of research into pollution and its prevention;
investigation to ensure compliance of the Act including the enforcement of conditions of licensed discharges, the detection of unlicensed discharges and the investigation of reports and complaints concerning pollution;
the handling of submission of plans relating to any form of waste disposal system;
the submission of Environmental Protection Policies to the Governor in Council. These policies aim to identify an area and segment of the environment which has been subjected to despoliation (eg the waters of Port Phillip Bay), to set out the beneficial uses of that segment and to establish criteria and standards which must be achieved in order to ensure the continuation of those beneficial uses;
publication of reports and information, education of the public and the formation of expert panels; liaison with other states and the Commonwealth Governments;
the co-ordination and enforcement of long range planning in environmental and waste management and pollution control and to report to and advise the Minister on the environment and possible amendments to legislation.
Delegation of certain licensing functions to 1985/86
To help the Authority meet its licensing function, Section 68 of the Act gave it the ability to delegate licensing and enforcement powers to other government agencies who had to exercise such powers under E.P.A. guidelines. Five agencies were eventually given various levels of responsibility:
the Latrobe Valley Water and Sewerage Board for licenses to discharge waste to water, air and land in the Latrobe Valley and East Gippsland areas,
the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and the Dandenong Valley Authority for licenses to discharge waste to waters within their areas,
the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission for licenses to discharge waste to inland waters and waters in areas not covered by the above agencies, and
(until 1981/82 when the Authority retrieved its responsibility) the Commission of Public Health for licenses to discharge waste to land throughout the whole state except for the area covered by the Latrobe Valley Water and Sewerage Board.
The Authority itself always handled all air licenses except for the area covered by the Latrobe Valley Water and Sewerage Board, water licenses for all coastal waters including Port Phillip and Westernport Bays, all noise control licenses and licenses involving the delegated agencies themselves. However during the 1985/86 financial year it appears as though all those delegations were revoked with powers transferred back to the Authority.
The Authority itself is composed of three members appointed by the Governor in Council, two of whom must have expertise in environmental control.
The Act also established the Environment Protection Council, a seventeen member body appointed by the Governor in Council. It assumed an advisory role in relation to matters relating to the Authority's, powers, duties and functions as well as to any matter referred to it by the Authority.
The Act also established the Environment Protection Appeals Board to hear appeals against licensing decisions of the Authority and its delegated agencies. As it was an autonomous body it did not come under the Authority's control. In 1987 responsibility for this function was transferred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VA 2659).
To meet all of its responsibilities, the Authority was originally structured into 10 branches. The control and prevention of pollution was mainly the responsibility of 4 branches; the Air Quality, Land Waste Management, Noise Control and Water Quality Branches. Each of these branches performed more or less the same activity in the licensing of discharges (exclusive of those administered by the delegated agencies) and the liaison with relevant committees and agencies. Each of these branches also conducted analytical research and monitoring. The direction and co-ordination of this research work was the responsibility of the Laboratory Services Branch. It was also responsible for ensuring the standardization of analytical methods used.
Compliance of the provisions of the Act was the responsibility of the Investigations Branch. It had three main functions; the enforcement of conditions of licensed discharges, the detection of unlicensed discharges and the investigation of reports and complaints concerning pollution.
The Planning and Research Branch was responsible mainly for submitting proposals on behalf of the Authority on the environmental aspects of land subdivisions, planning schemes and statements of planning policy. As such it eventually worked in close liaison with planning agencies, notably the Town and Country Planning Board, Regional Planning Authorities and the Planning Section of the MMBW.
The three remaining branches dealt with administration, information services and legal services. This last branch was responsible for the provision of legal advice, the initiation of litigation under the Act and to represent the Authority before the Environment Protection Appeals Board.
This basic structure remained in place until the end of at least the 1977/78 year. By 1980/81 restructuring had taken place with the emergence of three divisions. The Administration Branch became the Administrative Services Division. Investigations, Laboratory Services and Planning and Research all became branches of the Division of Special Services. The final division, named Waste and Noise Management oversaw the work of the Air Quality, Land Waste Management, Noise Control and Water Quality Branches. The Legal and Information Services Branches still existed but did not come under the direct control of any one division.
A more significant restructure occurred during 1983/84 concurrent with the abolition of the Ministry for Conservation (VA 551), to which the Authority had been responsible since 1973 and the creation of the Ministry for Planning and Environment (VA 1024) in 1983.
This restructure was also concurrent with an overhaul of the Act which was significant for abolishing the Environment Protection Council and its replacement with the Environment Council. This new body reports directly to the Minister on EPA proposals, recommends changes to the Act and comments of the way in which the Authority administers the Act.
Once again three divisions were created with only Administrative Services remaining untouched from the old structure. The first new division was titled Water, Wastes and Chemicals. It included the Water Quality and Land Waste Management Branches as well as a new Core Group Laboratory. This laboratory has since been replaced by a Recycling Unit. The other new division is the Division of Air and Noise. This includes the Air Quality and Noise Control Branches as well as a unit devoted to the Melbourne Airshed Study. This unit relates to the study of air pollution in the metropolitan area and was funded prior to 1985 by the SEC.
Once again a number of branches within this structure did not come under the control of any one division. The Investigations, Information Services, Legal Services and Planning and Research Branches instead all reported directly to the Chairman of the Authority. Since then, the Information Services Branch has been renamed Public Relations, and it and Legal Services have become branches of the Division of Administrative Services. The Investigations and Planning and Research Branches appear to have been disbanded and staff placed in other divisions.
Location of Records
For records of this agency see List of Holdings 1985, section 3.15.2
Clean Air Act 1958
Environment Protection 1970
- (Amendments) 1972,1974,1978,1983,1984
- (Noise Control) 1975,1978
- (Clean Air) 1981
- (License Fees) 1981
- (Air Pollution Control) 1982
- (Lead in Petrol) 1982
- (Penalties) 1982
- (Review) 1984
- (Industrial Waste) 1985
1. Annual Reports held in Context Control, Laverton
2. Victorian Government Directories, 1980-1986
3. Victorian Year Books 1970-1984
4. Material in Record Group file in Context Control, Laverton