New South Wales is now the only Australian state without an environment department, following an announcement that the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is being dissolved.
The Berejiklian government has advised that the environment branch will be absorbed into a new broader Planning and Industry cluster, while the heritage branch will be absorbed into the Arts portfolio, headed by Don Harwin as minister.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has hit back against claims that she is jeopardising the environment, assuring that the environment will have a “prominent place within Planning”, and that the EPA will continue to exist.
"The functions currently performed by OEH will continue under the new government structure and outcomes for the environment will continue to be delivered," says a spokesperson from OEH.
"Changes to individual government agencies such as OEH will in no way change our staff's commitment to delivering on the environmental priorities of this key portfolio."
Penny Sharpe, acting Labor leader and environment spokesperson has condemned the move in a comment to the Sydney Morning Herald, referring to it as “a terrible outcome for the environment of NSW” and “a betrayal” to voters.
She has also echoed the thoughts of others that the environment will not get the attention it needs at the bottom of a large department, and that this decision is pandering to developers.
Questions also remain as to whether heritage will get the attention it needs in Arts, and staff are wary due to a letter from OEH chief executive Anthony Lean stating he is still seeking clarification on how the heritage branch will be impacted.
Other changes include the cessation of the Office of Local Government as a separate entity, and the closure of the Planning and Environment cluster by 1 July this year.
Image credit: NSW National Parks