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New independent EPA for Tasmania’s environment

Legislation to establish an independent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for Tasmania has been tabled in State Parliament.

The body will regulate the environmental performance of industry and protect the environment without any political interference.

The Minister for Tourism, Arts and the Environment, Paula Wriedt, said Tasmania’s natural environment is important socially and economically for current and future generations of Tasmanians.

"As Tasmanians we take great pride in the quality of the environment around us as it is the foundation of our unique lifestyle and is recognised nationally and internationally," the Minister said.

"The Tasmanian Government wants to encourage sustainable development to further grow our strong economy, and this requires a progressive and rigorous environmental management system.

"The new EPA will be robust and fair and able to appropriately assess developments and regulate industry in a fully independent and transparent manner."

Last month Parliament unanimously approved amendments to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act, after it had undergone an extensive review and consultation.

The amendments will improve the operation and administration of the Act, clarify ambiguities, provide more definitive processes and assist the new EPA to protect the environment.

Ms Wriedt said the EPA builds on these improvements to the current system, which has already done much to clean up and protect Tasmania, and will now acknowledge the public expectations of independence and accountability.

The Bill establishes an Environment Protection Authority, governed by a board with an independent chairperson, three other appointed members, from whom one may be appointed as a deputy chairperson and the Director.

The EPA board will be expertise based, and the appointed members will be independent of government, in that they will not be state service officers or employees.

The Director will have the same functions and powers as the current Director of Environmental Management, and the chairperson is to have experience in environmental or natural resource management and public administration.

Other appointed members will have a range of skills and experience in environmental management and in a number of areas such as public health, economic assessment, industry or local government.

With an independent chairperson and an expert board, the EPA will be able to establish a clear identity and drive its strategic direction.

It will set binding conditions to ensure activities such as mining, processing and manufacturing do not adversely affect the health and environment of Tasmanians.

Ms Wriedt said the Environmental Protection Authority should commence in Tasmania on the first of July 2008.