Open for business - adapting to the new normal

As Western Australians work towards a sustainable future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and adapt to the new normal, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) is continuing to provide services and remains very much open for business.

The department is committed to ensuring the appropriate protection of the environment and management of the State’s water, while supporting and enabling WA’s social and economic recovery from the pandemic.

We understand that delays to processes are a concern for many stakeholders.

As a result we have taken immediate action to address assessment backlogs in Environmental Protection Act clearing and industrial regulation assessments and more substantial reforms to accelerate our efforts to streamline regulatory processes.

These are some of the ways that the department is helping WA to find a new normal beyond COVID-19:

  • The Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has recently opened applications for a share of a new $9.28 million Clean Energy Future Fund (CEFF), setup to support the development of innovative, clean energy projects in the State. More information is available on the department’s website.
  • $20 million of funding has been made available to support local authorities to transition to three-bin, Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) services. This change would s households use a red lid bin for general waste, a yellow lid bin for co-mingled recycling, and a lime-green lid bin for both garden organics and food organics (an improvement on existing three‑bin systems in which only garden organic waste goes in the organics bin). More information is available on the Waste Authority website.
  • The WA Government through the department has continued to support farmers and local authorities in the south west land division dryland agricultural areas, investing over $12 million in the past three years in water carting and new or upgraded strategic water infrastructure, and in the past year, about $1.5 million has been spent on 37 community water supplies in the Wheatbelt and Great Southern.
  • Last week the Western Australian Government announced that it is introducing measures to streamline environmental assessment and approval processes in Western Australia to minimise delays and to assist in the State's post pandemic recovery. This includes an additional $12.4 million towards a total of $28 million to complete our Environment Online initiative, an important component of DWER’s One Stop Shop for environmental assessments, approvals and compliance.
  • Co-funded $7.5 million by the Commonwealth Government, Environment Online will digitise and streamline processes, providing a smoother experience and faster turnarounds. Stay tuned for more news on this exciting initiative.
  • The Environment Online initiative will be complemented by the establishment of a Biodiversity Information Office (BIO), led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA). The McGowan Government’s $7.7 million funding commitment towards BIO, combined with a $1.5 million commitment from the Commonwealth, will provide a cost-effective system to capture, store, curate, publish and analyse biodiversity data throughout WA. It compliments and extends the work of the Index of Biodiversity Assessments (IBSA).

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we are all living and working but day-to-day, the department continues to deliver services.

But inevitably some significant projects and priorities have had to be deferred or changed. These include:

  • Containers for Change (container deposit scheme) - the June 2020 launch has been deferred and the situation will be reviewed again in August 2020 with a view to commencement in either November 2020 or June 2021.
  • 2020 Infinity Awards – these have been cancelled for this year.
  • Consultation for the Fitzroy River water allocation plan and management plan – this has been put on hold and will be rescheduled later in 2020.
  • Consultation on the waste levy review has been extended by two months until 15 July 2020 and the Closing the loop consultation paper is available.
  • Release of a draft Native Vegetation Policy and publication of issues paper submissions is delayed to respond to consultation restrictions.  Stakeholders are being advised of new timelines moving forward.

Some events that have been moved online include:

  • The Murujuga Rock Art Monitoring Program workshop and meeting of the Murujuga Rock Art Stakeholder Reference Group, which took place 7 May 2020.
  • Workshops to support consultation on waste reforms and the levy review.

As of Monday 18 May, in line with the rest of the Western Australian Public Sector, our staff resumed their usual working arrangements and office locations.

As social distancing measures are still in place, we prefer meetings with staff to be conducted through video or teleconferencing at this stage. Our online systems remain available and we encourage you to keep using them.

We will advise you in the coming weeks of changes to our day-to-day operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff continue to be available via phone or email if you have any concerns or questions

It’s important to remember that despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, statutory obligations remain in place, including water and environmental licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities.

It is recommended that all licence, permit and other approval holders create and adopt a business continuity plan to help meet their statutory responsibilities.

If you anticipate any significant risk to your ability to comply with your statutory responsibilities, under environmental and water legislation, please email the department.

Our regional and field officers can continue to operate safely under social distancing measures including travel restrictions.

This means our important natural resource management and compliance and enforcement activities and emergency response functions continue.

More information will be available as the situation evolves and our key stakeholders and business contacts will be informed of developments through individual DWER business areas.

We would like to thank our clients, stakeholders and the wider community for your understanding as we work together through this challenging time.

Regulation

Statutory obligations remain in place, including water and environmental licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities. It is recommended that all licence, permit and other approval holders create and adopt a business continuity plan to help meet their statutory responsibilities.

If you anticipate any significant risk to your ability to comply with your statutory responsibilities, under environmental and water legislation, please notify us by emailing compliance@dwer.wa.gov.au

Further Information

More information will be available as the situation evolves in the coming weeks and our key stakeholders and business contacts will be informed of developments through individual DWER business areas.

We would like to thank our clients, stakeholders and the wider community for your understanding as we work together through this challenging time.