Coal seam gas drives huge surge in green complaints

LOST data, staff shortages and an outdated computer system are leaving the state's environment vulnerable and "exposed to harm" by the one government department powerful enough to protect it.

The government's own Auditor-General found the Department of Environment was "not fully effective in its supervision, monitoring and enforcement of environmental conditions".

Minister Andrew Powell and Director-General Jon Black conceded there were problems but denied they caused any risk to the environment.

The report tabled on Tuesday - following a major audit - found the department did not know whether a third of resource projects were complying with legislation.

In some cases, projects had shut down without the department's knowledge.

It only learned of the closures after trying to recover outstanding fees and charges.

The report revealed that despite an almost 600% increase in environmental complaints - largely driven by the expansion of the coal seam gas sector - inspections increased by just 43%.

Mr Powell said many of the issues were caused by an "old and clunky" system left by the previous Labor Government.

The department was now preparing to install its replacement.

"It kicks off imminently and will be rolled out over the next two years," he said.

Mr Powell said the timing of the audit, while the government was attempting to address the problems, meant the report was "a waste of time".

He said the Auditor-General's conclusion was "emotive", without reflecting the tone of the report.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said the report was a "damning indictment" on the government.

The audit found staff shortages limited environmental monitoring.

Ms Trad said these were caused by the government's sacking of 500 public servants in the department since coming to power in 2012.

The department has agreed to act on all nine recommendations from the Auditor-General's report.


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