Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) [4.01 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition in debate on the Pesticides Amendment Bill 2015. We will not oppose the bill. The licensing of aerial pesticide applicators and urban pest management technicians and fumigators has been managed separately by the Environment Protection Authority [EPA] and WorkCover NSW, creating an unnecessary administrative burden and division where division should not have existed. Under this bill, the EPA will become the licensor for both areas of pesticide management, and this will allow for a more efficient management of licences, with "certificates of competency", as it relates to pest management technicians and fumigators, replaced by the term "licence". We support this approach.
I can also confirm that the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association [AEPMA], which is the peak body for the pest management industry in Australia, supports moving licensing from WorkCover NSW to the EPA. The pest management industry, I am advised, is a significant industry, with around $1.5 billion in turnover each year. I am also advised that 75 per cent of this work is undertaken by AEPMA members. While the industry may be well used to separate terms of "certificates of competency" and "licence", the change proposed in this bill will certainly make it easier for the community to understand how the industry is regulated and provide for the start of a standardised national approach.
It is noted that there may be future changes to training and licensing as part of a national review process, but this bill ensures current licensed pest technicians and fumigators will not be inconvenienced in the changeover. Under this legislation, aerial applicators will no longer have a licence of infinite duration; they will require licence renewal every five years. This is in line with community expectations. In line with this approach, the EPA will also keep a register of all licensees that provide pesticide services. We are pleased that this register will be made available to the public. Of course, there is no mention in the bill how this change will affect the EPA, and it is presumed the authority will not receive further resources to undertake this work. The Government has given no indication of whether this change will impact on the current workload of the authority.
The bill also allows for enforceable undertakings, where the EPA will be able to ace more readily on breaches of the Act and look to immediate action outside the usual legal framework that can take time when time is of the essence. While this is supported, it remains to be seen whether the breaches will in fact be dealt with quickly and appropriately. We only hope this is the case, and that is why we believe giving the EPA the ability to enter into an agreement with the company or person responsible for the breach is a step in the right direction. However, again I come back to the resourcing of the EPA. As we saw with the Orica chemical leak in 2014, the EPA response has not always been appropriate, or indeed has been done in haste. With this legislation, it is hoped that incidents involving pesticides will be responded to in line with community expectations—that is, promptly and with transparency.
The bill will also provide greater protection for landowners, ensuring that the definition of "damage" to property from pesticide use is clarified. In explaining this section of the Act, the EPA uses the example of spray drift, which may prevent the use of the affected land for grazing for a period. The Act seeks to clear up any confusion over the interpretation of "damage". The changes to the Act appear to be good news for farmers and it is hoped will better protect the productive value of agricultural land. Again, however, this comes back to the ability of the EPA to respond to instances of pesticide misuse. It comes back to the capacity and resourcing of the authority.
It is also good to see companion animals protected by this bill. While the offence will not apply when pesticide users can establish that they acted with due diligence, the amendments are intended to give better protection from pesticide use to companion animals on residential properties. The Act sets the maximum penalty for a corporation at $120,000 and $60,000 for an individual. I note that the amendments proposed by this bill are part of a wider review of the regulatory framework to ensure the proper usage, storage and disposal of chemicals in New South Wales. The Government has foreshadowed changes to the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 in the term of this Parliament. We hope the Government will actively consult with industry and the community on those changes. I confirm that the Opposition will support this bill.