Businesses gain insight

By Benalla Ensign

Benalla businesses heard how the new Environment Protection Act will affect them at an event in Benalla last Thursday.

The open house, held at the Benalla Performing Arts and Convention Centre, saw businesses in the Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s (EPA) North East area given the chance to speak to experts.

Businesses, as well as individuals in the area, will be covered by the new laws from July 1, 2020.

The new Act emphasises the need to prevent pollution occurring, but still gives EPA significant deterrents, including fines of up to $1.6 million for breaches.

EPA said reckless and deliberate acts that caused pollution could lead to fines of up to $3.2 million and possible jail for individuals.

The EPA said it would be proactively engaging with businesses, so they knew what they had to do to be compliant, and the benefits that compliance brought.

‘‘The region has faced many environmental challenges and EPA officers are often called because of pollution incidents, such as illegal dumping of industrial waste and odour issues,’’ EPA north east manager Emma Knights said.

‘‘This Act will help us prevent those and other kinds of pollution challenges.

‘‘While there are businesses that wilfully ignore their obligation to protect the environment, many simply don’t understand what they have to do to be compliant with it.

‘‘Not knowing your obligations is not a defence and from July 2020 offenders could face large fines if they cause pollution and harm the environment or the community.

‘‘If a business is not compliant, they should know the potential penalties can be extremely costly, and as the Act gives wider powers, there’s a much greater chance of detection leading to an EPA sanction.’’

The open house event in Benalla was just one of many to be carried out by the EPA across Victoria.