THE state environment and primary industry departments are failing to act as proper watchdogs over potential environmental threats, a critical review by the Victorian Auditor-General has found.
In an inquiry released yesterday, the Auditor-General says neither department has sufficient policies, systems, or monitoring in place to properly ensure people and industry are complying with Victoria's environment laws.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment and Department of Primary Industries have a series of responsibilities under state law to protect the environment, such as ensuring plant and animal health, regulating the use of chemicals in agriculture, and overseeing the mining industry.
Issues arising from state environment laws being broken could include illegal logging, illegal duck hunting, and introduction of pest species, among numerous others, the Auditor-General's report says.
''Non-compliance can contribute to the loss of high-value species, ecosystems and industries. For other species and systems, the cumulative impacts of environmental crime are incremental and less obvious,'' the report says.
The Auditor-General found neither department had proper systems in place to best address the risk of these problems occurring. Further the report said it was unclear how each department's compliance activities had contributed to fulfilling its watchdog role, and how any success was measured.
''This limits their [the department's] ability to monitor high compliance risks across the department and to provide assurance about how well they perform their compliance role and the outcomes achieved,'' the Auditor-General found.
''As a consequence, neither department can be sure that its compliance activities contribute to protecting natural resources, primary industries and the environment as the legislation intended.''
The report is particularly savage on the Department of Sustainability and Environment, noting that it had known about the problems in its compliance regime back in 2009-10 following a review, but many of the major problems had persisted long after…
…Environment Victoria's Mark Wakeham said the report made clear the departments were acting in an ad hoc way, and argued that funding and staff cuts on the table for both departments were not going to help.