A new, strong Department of Environment and Conservation is to be created in a major shake-up of the environment portfolio.
Environment Minister Mark McGowan today announced that the existing Department of Environment and the Department of Conservation and Land Management would be merged to form the new agency.
“The new department, which will commence operation on July 1, will be stronger and more robust, with the resources to tackle priority and emerging issues related to protecting and conserving our environment and the nature of Western Australia,” Mr McGowan said.
The Minister said the move would help ensure that environmental issues could be more adequately addressed in the face of the State’s booming economy and growing population, which were placing significant pressure on the environment.
“Since becoming Environment Minister, I have been enormously impressed with the skills and dedication of the staff of both agencies,” he said.
“However, I have sensed that there is a growing frustration from several sectors - including industry, farming and the conservation movement - that resources are not being channeled efficiently into environmental protection and conservation management.
“There are also areas of duplication between the agencies, particularly in addressing major issues such as natural resource management, salinity and the protection of our rivers and wetlands.
“Regulatory and approval processes are not consistent across the agencies and this merely adds to delays that really are not acceptable.
“The merger will combine the strengths of the two agencies, which will enable the new department to provide whole-of-government leadership on key issues, particularly greenhouse and sustainability, with improved co-ordination and advice to Government.
“Regulatory and approval processes will be streamlined and there will be a single contact point for the community, industry, tourism operators, farmers and pastoralists and conservation groups alike.
“The new, larger agency will offer greater career choices and will assist in attracting and retaining key staff in an increasingly competitive job market.”
Mr McGowan said the new department would have a combined budget of $270million and more than 1,800 staff around the State from Kununurra to Esperance.
Keiran McNamara, the current executive director of CALM, would be the director general of the new agency.
The day-to-day services of the former DoE and CALM would continue to be delivered under the direction of acting deputy directors general, Kim Taylor (Environment) and Jim Sharp (Parks and Conservation), who would report direct to Mr McNamara.
“The objective is for a smooth transition for the public and external stakeholders as well as departmental staff,” the Minister said.
The Environmental Protection Authority will continue in its present form with chairman Wally Cox appointed for a further three-year term by State Cabinet yesterday.
The new department would service the EPA as well as the Swan River Trust, Waste Management Board, Keep Australia Beautiful Council, Conservation Commission of WA and the Marine Parks and Reserves Authority.
Mr McGowan said the Government was also preparing plans to merge the Conservation Commission and Marine Parks and Reserves Authority to create a new Biodiversity Commission, in line with a 2005 election commitment.
The new Department of Environment and Conservation would largely bring WA into line with the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland, which already had a single agency for environmental protection, land and marine management and biodiversity conservation.
Minister's office: 9222 9111