Labor promises changes to Environment Protection Authority

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Originally published: The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 February 2015.

By Natalie O'Brien

Opposition Leader Luke Foley has promised to appoint an independent chairman to the Environment Protection Authority and to increase protections for koalas in the state's north, if Labor is elected next month.

Mr Foley, who is also environment spokesman, was speaking following the release of the report on the upper house inquiry into the performance of the EPA, which included 17 recommendations for change.

He noted that there was a unanimous finding that the dual role of EPA chairman and chief executive officer should be separated.

 

"This does not apply to other state-owned corporations or government trusts," Mr Foley said.

"It offends all the principles of good governance. I think the inquiry should be good for the EPA and I would like to see a greater humility from the senior executives of the authority. I think it would be good for the senior executives to be subject to strong oversight."

An EPA spokeswoman said: "The EPA is carefully considering all the findings from the parliamentary inquiry and would like to thank the parliamentary committee for the opportunity it presented to increase public awareness and understanding about the important role the EPA plays in protecting communities and the environment in NSW." 

The inquiry examined the logging by the Forestry Corporation in the Royal Camp State Forest and its effect on threatened species, including koalas.

Mr Foley promised to make the Royal Camp State Forest a national park - one of a number of conservation areas to save the koalas. He said he would also commit to the creation of a koala hospital for the north of the state.

Dailan Pugh, of the North East Forest Alliance, which had criticised the EPA, welcomed the authority's admission to the inquiry that its responses to the alliance's complaints were not always of the standard that the community should expect from the regulator.

Mr Pugh welcomed the recommendation that fines for crimes committed at Royal Camp State Forest should be increased from $300 to $15,000 and that a multiplier effect should be applied to repeat offenders.

Originally published as: Labor promises changes to Environment Protection Authority