Volume Six 2011 focus on Environment, Water and Regional Infrastructure

The Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, today released his report on financial audits of government agencies in the environment; water, planning and infrastructure sectors. Some of the primary industries agencies and the Department of Premier and Cabinet are also included.

The Environment Protection Authority’s expenditure for the financial year 2010/11 was $92 million - $76 million of this was for environment protection and regulation.

The Office of Environment and Heritage and the Environment Protection Authority commenced 145 prosecutions for environmental offences and 106 were completed in the financial year 2010/11, down from the 134 prosecutions completed in 2009/10. Financial penalties for 2010/11 totalled $969,000 down from $1,403,000 in 2009/10. The average fine decreased from $10,468 in 2009/10 to $9,141 in 2010/11.

Prosecutions do vary from year to year and depend on court process. In the three months since 30 June 2011, 53 prosecutions had been completed with financial penalties of $605,000.

Mr Achterstraat was also concerned that: ‘There are a large number of contaminated sites in New South Wales and the cost to remediate them is largely unknown.’

‘Derelict mines may represent the largest contamination liability facing our State. There are approximately 500 derelict mine sites.’

The Office of Environment and Heritage advised that the cost of cleaning up derelict mines would be substantial and that the few million dollars allocated annually to the Derelict Mines Program are substantially inadequate.

There are also just over 300 sites that are significantly contaminated with a further 1,070 sites still to be assessed - nearly 950 of these relate to services stations and other petroleum sites.

Projects that reduce electricity consumption such as rebates for energy efficient household items are far more cost effective than the Solar Bonus Scheme.

‘Energy saving programs have cost about 3 cents to save a kilowatt hour of energy, this is in stark contrast to the 60 cents to generate a kilowatt hour under the Solar Bonus Scheme’, said Mr  Achterstraat. 

The Climate Change Fund is now expected to meet the costs of the Solar Bonus Scheme. With the Fund originally capped at $700 million it will need to be increased or other sources found to meet the future Solar Bonus Scheme payments. These payments could be up to $1.75 billion.

‘It is far cheaper to save energy than to make it’, said Mr Achterstraat.

Contributions from the four water authorities to Government increased by 25 per cent in 2010/11 - $472 million was paid to Government, up from $379 million in 2009/10.

The total number of questions asked on notice in the NSW Parliament reduced significantly in 2010/11, falling by 44 percent - from 5,080 in 2009/10 to 2,852 in 2010/11.
Further information

Barry Underwood, on 02 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664 and email barry.underwood@audit.nsw.gov.au