In May of this year, Launceston was again covered in burn-off smoke. It came from a weed-reduction burn-off at Breadalbane and continued over more than one day. The event was observed by relevant EPA and local government officers yet no action was taken with regard to the smoke that hung in and over Launceston after the first day of burning. The EPA has, despite my advice and requests, declined to act on the matter. They ignore the EMPC Act and resort to unpublished advice which says they can’t prosecute the offender/s (see within article).

The failure of the EPA to prosecute in such matters of the closure of an airport in 2007 and of the smoking out of a city in 2012 exemplifies exactly that … a failure of the EPA. I am mindful of the EPA’s many successes, and its current ‘Burn Brighter this Winter’ campaign. However, the Breadalbane 2012 Burn exemplifies one area of consistent failure in the EPA. Its failure in its duty to protect the Tasmanian public from pernicious smoke. What can I say about the EPA? That while it was proactively happy to agree that the mill project had been substantially commenced, it can’t advance a test case in the court when Launceston is smoked out? Often, perhaps even most times or (dare I write it?), ‘always’ finding reason not to prosecute when planned burn smoke impinges on the health and safety of ordinary citizens.

The law provides for prosecutions. Yet the agency doesn’t prosecute. Instead it ‘passes the buck’ and points to the NEPM (National Environment Protection Measures – Ambient Air Quality), which require that we be smoked out for a period of 24 hours before anyone will even admit to an air pollution event. The NEPM in itself is not an enforcement instrument and the EPA’s data collection reliance on the NEPM is a cop-out. We have our own state law, the EMPC Act 1994, which in sections 50-54, deals with the issue as an offences against the Act, provides for penalties etc. Yet our EPA fiddles while smoky Tasmania awaits the next imminent burning season.

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