EPA stakeholder survey

The EPA regularly seeks feedback from key stakeholders and the NSW community.

EPA commitment to improve stakeholder engagement

The EPA is continuing to improve its engagement processes to better inform, consult and involve stakeholders, and to be more service oriented, in all areas of our work.

Feedback helps the EPA find out what stakeholders need to effectively work with us, how we can improve our communications and engagement, gain insight into where we can improve and understand community concerns.

The EPA commissioned Instinct and Reason to conduct an independent stakeholder survey in 2020. Around 2010 members of the public and 1120 EPA stakeholders including councils, licensees, community groups and the regulated community, filled out an online survey. In-depth focus groups were also run.

The stakeholder survey has provided unique insights to inform our work, telling us what stakeholders are most interested in, their thoughts and opinions on what’s important to them and where we are succeeding or could be making improvements.

The purpose of the survey was to:

  • Understand expectations of the general public and stakeholders
  • Identify the level of engagement and other issues among stakeholders 
  • Evaluate our service and channels – comparing responses to NSW Government customer service measures and previous results
  • Help fine tune and improve our communication and engagement strategies 
  • Assess progress since the 2016 study

Instinct and Reason made a number of recommendations based on the findings. Many activities are already underway to address these recommendations, and other activities will be planned through the development of the Stakeholder Strategy.

The recommendations can be generally categorised as follows:

  • Communicate the EPA’s role and responsibilities, priorities and outcomes, and how we operate/do business post transformation.
  • Increase commitment to service delivery and meeting agreed timelines.
  • Be more transparent in reporting outcomes of investigations and publishing findings and actions.
  • Increase two-way proactive engagement and enabling greater involvement of stakeholders from an earlier stage to co-design new policies and frameworks.
  • Ensure consistent and aligned messages (including our positions/stance) across the organisation – regulation across geographies, sectors, policy positions.
  • Explore how we can activate and empower community to get involved.
  • The EPA Executive travelled around NSW in February and March to listen to council and licensee stakeholders across 12 locations. At these Roadshow forums we consulted on the EPA’s Regulatory Strategy, talked about the EPA’s key regulatory priorities, took questions from the floor and discussed local environmental topics and other relevant issues. We are looking to hold the Roadshows each year.
  • The EPA’s new Charter of Engagement outlines our commitment to everyone we work with. It signals our intent to better listen, inform, consult and involve community, industry and government in our work.
  • We have started more targeted industry specific engagement with monthly Waste and Local Government Advisory groups and targeted engagement on forestry regulation.
  • An Engagement Training Program for all staff will be rolled out in 2021. It covers the principles of engagement, skills and techniques for effective interactions and managing challenging issues. All operational staff will attend.
  • A suite of tools has been developed to help staff plan and deliver effective stakeholder engagement. This includes a guide on the best communication channels and methods for getting information across and thinking from the customer’s point of view.
  • We are increasing proactive communications. EPA Connect has more stories on topics of interest to stakeholders, we are using social media and video boldly, we are sharing operational information on regulatory actions faster, and improving readability of the website.
  • We consulted on our proposed Regulatory Strategy outlining our objectives and challenges for environmental regulation – a clear topic of interest in the survey.
  • The EPA’s operations hub is coordinating licensing requests and incidents through a central point to improve the timeliness and consistency of our regulatory responses.

Additional strategic activities being developed include

  • Developing a Customer Service Charter and implementing standard response times, so community and stakeholders can be clear on what to expect when they contact us. This will also guide staff on how we interact with complainants and reports.
  • Developing a Data Strategy and adding more data to our website to report on our work, including on inspections in gas and forestry operations, to increase transparency.
  • Calibration exercises for all operational staff, so they have consistency in considerations when making a regulatory decision. This has been the model in forestry for some time and will be designed and rolled out to other operational areas.
  • We are exploring opportunities to stay in contact with independent interest groups. We have been consulting with community stakeholders on the best ways for them to provide us information that will assist our regulation of forestry. This could be a model for other community groups to engage with us

General public key findings

  • Awareness in the community of the EPA is high – 85% (as in previous years), but genuine knowledge of the EPA appears low, although it has significantly increased from 8% to 14%
  • The overall results show positive shifts in the level of community satisfaction with environmental protection in NSW, reaching 49% that are very or fairly satisfied (up by 8%). 
  • Industry and government stakeholders were overall more satisfied with the EPA (62% and 68%) than community and environmental stakeholders, which is down from 2016; community (52% to 33%), environmental (47% to 19% since 2016).
  • Most of the NSW community agrees (72%) that the aim of environmental regulation should be to improve, rather than maintain the health of the environment.
  • Many in the community want stronger penalties for polluters (55%), to see more investigations and prosecutions (51%) and to hear more about the outcomes of investigations and actions. The community want to know more about the environmental priorities for NSW with 40% asking for more leadership from the NSW EPA in setting the environmental agenda and explaining what work is critical for the environment.
  • Key environmental issues of interest to community were control of greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental impacts of gas, native forest logging and contaminated land sites.
  • According to the focus groups, community views are shifting as a result of the extensive bushfires which most in the community link to climate change. 
  • Only 17% of the community report being exposed to NSW EPA in the news, but when they are, their perception of the NSW EPA is improved. Half the NSW community would like the NSW EPA to be more visible; provide more information on what the NSW EPA is doing to protect the environment (50%) and to communicate/promote its challenges and achievements (49%).
  • Despite wanting more regulation, the NSW community rate the NSW EPA well in its industry regulation role, incident management and in keeping the water clean. (Most believe it is the regulation/legislation itself that is holding the NSW EPA back). 

Stakeholder key findings

  • Key stakeholders maintained their level of satisfaction with the level of environmental protection at about 55%, which is slightly higher than for the community at 49%
  • However, stakeholders are less satisfied with the NSW EPA’s performance in 2020 than in 2016, with satisfaction falling to 58%. It remains higher for government and industry stakeholders, but it weakened for community and  environmental stakeholders.
  • Stakeholders are generally satisfied with the communications from and with the NSW EPA (72%), including the website and other online services. These rated strongly with stakeholders saying they know where to find the information they need.
  • 66% of stakeholders are satisfied with their interactions with the NSW EPA (down from 71% in 2016) with government stakeholders most satisfied (78%). More community (42%) and environmental (45%) stakeholders are dissatisfied than in 2016.
  • Stakeholders want the NSW EPA to work more closely with them, and to inform industry and the community about its work.
  • The EPA brand is seen as professional (66%), approachable (62%) and trustworthy/honest (58%). These are our top-rated attributes and are based on interactions and experiences with EPA staff. This is consistent with the findings of qualitative surveys where interactions and relationships with NSW EPA staff were largely reported as positive and highly valued.
  • There are three operational areas that stand out as challenges for the NSW EPA:
    • Only 21% agree that the NSW EPA has enough staff
    • Only 29% agree that all staff have a consistent approach.
    • Only 44% believe that the NSW EPA understands their organisations’ priorities and concerns.
  • On perceptions of EPA performance and areas for improvement, stakeholders said they were dissatisfied with inconsistent, untimely and inaccurate responses; failure to act, no enforcement of regulations, lack of transparency, guidance to industry and community; lack of cooperation or vision; too politicised or on the side of big business (rated in order).
  • Regression modelling revealed strong correlation between satisfaction with the NSW EPA and the quality of the formal consultation process and the Environment Line call centre experience. For both these service issues, low NSW EPA performance scores combined with their high importance to stakeholders make them critical areas for the NSW EPA to address.
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