Environmental Management of Council Operations


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Environmental Management of Council Operations
E nv i r o n me n t a l Ma n a g e me n t o f
Co u n c i l Op e r a t i o n s
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Disclaimer: The State of NSW, the Department of Environmental and Climate Change NSW
(DECC) and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) have made all reasonable efforts to ensure
that the contents of this document are factual and free of error. However DECC and the EPA shall
not be liable for any damage or loss which may occur in relation to any person taking action or not
on the basis of this document.
This material may be reproduced in whole or in part for non-commercial educational use, provided
the meaning is unchanged and the source is acknowledged.
Published by:
Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW
59–61 Goulburn Street
PO Box A290
Sydney South 1232
Phone: (02) 9995 5000 (switchboard)
Phone: 131 555 (environment information and publications requests)
Phone: 1300 361 967 (national parks information and publications requests)
Fax: (02) 9995 5999
TTY: (02) 9211 4723
Email: info@environment.nsw.gov.au
Website: www.environment.nsw.gov.au
ISBN 978 1 74122 576 1
DECC 2007/441
September 2007
Front cover photo: Waste collection truck, Camden Council © DECC
Printed on recycled paper
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Overview v
1 Before you start
2 Getting the processes right
3 Getting the programs right
4 Improving environmental performance
5 Case studies
Appendix A: Ten tips for success 86
Appendix B: Example framework project plan 87
Appendix C: Sample standard operating procedures 90
Appendix D: Example environmental audit tool for council work sites 149
Appendix E: General contract conditions 155
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
This publication is based on material prepared for the Department of Environment and Climate
Change (DECC) by GEMS Pty Ltd. Funding for this document was provided by the NSW
Government through its Stormwater Trust.
A large number of people have assisted in the production of this guide, in particular members of the
project management group from Rockdale City Council, Marrickville Council and DECC. In addition
more than 100 council offi cers provided input by responding to surveys or participating in discussions
– their input played a major role in the development of this guide.
Staff from the following councils provided material used in the case studies:
North Sydney Council
Tamworth Regional Council
Blue Mountains City Council
Rockdale City Council
Port Stephens Council
Hurstville City Council
Marrickville City Council
Bankstown City Council.
Photography credits:
Contents opener Litter trap installation, Brown Park, Deniliquin Deniliquin Council
Overview Stormwater management at Bexley golf course Kellie Walters/ DECC
Section 1 opener Barricades around construction work T Maroney/Rockdale City Council
Section 2 opener Typical landfi ll site Kate Calabretta/ DECC
Section 3 opener Blacktown council depot with sediment fencing Blacktown Council
Section 4 opener Recycling at Camden Truda King/ DECC
Section 5 opener Spill response trailer Marrickville Council
Appendices opener Collecting unwanted household chemicals Kate Calabretta/ DECC
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On any day in New South Wales, councils across the state are involved in road
construction and maintenance, sewer construction and maintenance, water supply,
parks and garden maintenance, painting, street sweeping, spill response, bridge repairs
and much more. The days of councils being about just ‘roads, rates and rubbish’ are
long gone.
Councils are responsible for providing and maintaining a huge range of public services.
They also manage and maintain billions of dollars worth of public infrastructure.
Councils also have the potential to cause environmental harm if they do not manage the
activities of their operational teams effectively. In order to support councils developing the
environmental management capacity of their operational teams, the NSW Department of
Environment and Climate Change (DECC) has developed this resource guide.
Aims of this guide
This resource guide aims to support councils in developing the environmental
management capacity of their operational teams. It is intended as a practically focused
guide that brings together the experiences and resources developed by many councils
in New South Wales to offer something for those councils just developing environmental
management programs right through to those aiming for ISO 14001 certifi cation, an
international standard of environmental management.
Scope of this guide
The guide provides advice and guidance to those councils who are just beginning
to develop their programs on matters like the rationale for having an environmental
management system, including the legal, social and environmental reasons.
The guide also covers the importance of developing a positive environmental culture
and developing corporate and operational ownership of any programs. It reinforces
the critical role played by regular and effective communication in the development of
operational programs.
Overvi ew
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
It provides guidance on completing a gap analysis for council, developing project plans,
developing specialised knowledge and skills, and other program management issues that
need to be considered before developing any activities.
It then outlines in more detail the key program elements that are important for
encouraging more ef
fective environmental management. These include for example:
• development and delivery of basic environmental awareness training
• development of environmentally focused standard operating procedures
• development and implementation of an internal environmental audit process
• development and implementation of a risk assessment process.
The guide provides a brief overview of the rationale, methodology and evaluation
criteria for each of these program elements, and includes sample texts (e.g. for standard
operating procedures), checklists and other resources. It contains references for further
reading and summarises case studies that feature the experiences of some NSW
councils in developing most of these program elements.
However, this guide is not a recipe book. Councils across the state have developed many
different approaches in order to achieve their ultimate goal of having environmentally
aware and responsible operational teams. These differences in approach refl ect the
diversity of councils across New South Wales.
Council personnel are encouraged to work through this guide and then adopt the
recommendations to suit their own particular situations.
Council personnel are also encouraged to talk to their peers at other councils. They
are all willing to share their experiences in order to achieve the ultimate goal of better-
protected local environments.
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1. Before you start
1.1 How to use this guide
1.2 Six reasons to put a program in place
1.3 Ten tips for success
1.4 To EMS or not to EMS?
Before you start
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
1.1 How to use this guide
The best way to use this guide is simply to select the sections you need. The guide is
divided into the following fi ve broad sections, described below, as well as appendices
containing additional information:
• Before you start
• Getting the processes right
• Getting the programs right
• Improving environmental performance
• Case studies.
Before you start
This section covers:
• the legal, community and environmental reasons for developing a program designed to
enhance the environmental management capacity of council operational teams
• the ‘ten tips for success’ that anyone implementing this type of program should
• the importance of a systematic approach to guide even the most basic of programs.
Getting the processes right
This section looks at the processes seen as being important for the long-term success of
any operations development program. These processes include:
• development of a positive environmental culture
• gathering of high-level support and an ongoing budget commitment
• identifying champions within the operational personnel
• developing ownership
• promoting your program.
Getting the programs right
This section details some programs that should be considered before developing specifi c
program elements including for example:
• gap analysis – identifying where your council is at
• training needs analysis – identifying the specialist skills and support that will be required
• project planning.
Improving environmental performance
This section covers important program elements for the effective development of council
operational teams. It considers the development of councils through four broad groups.
They are:
• group 1 councils who have no program elements in place but want to get
something done
• group 2 councils who have:

environmental awareness training

environmental components in staff inductions

but want to do more
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Before you start
• Group 3 councils who have a number of program elements in place but want to add
more depth to their program, including:
• environmentally focused standard operating procedures
• an internal environmental audit process
• an emergency response process
• a system to effectively manage subcontractors
• Group 4 councils who have:
• environmental performance indicators in operational personnel job descriptions
• environmental performance indicators in senior management contracts.
Group 4 councils may also be considering international certifi cation for their operations
development programs (ISO 14001).
Group 3 and group 4 councils are well on the way to developing the environmental
management capacity of their operational teams.
These groups are not strictly hierarchical – you don’t need to have all the nominated
group 3 program elements in place before implementing any group 4 programs. They
do however give an idea of the types of programs needed at different stages to build
effective long-term systems.
Case studies
This section offers case studies from NSW councils linked to the various program
elements outlined in section 4. Case studies are an effective way of providing information
to council offi cers.
Getting the most from the guide
It is strongly recommended that you begin by reading sections 1, 2 and 3. Even if all
you want to do is develop and implement a basic environmental awareness course, it
is important to understand the processes that need attention if that course is to have a
long-term impact. All councils with an accredited environmental management system, for
example, began by offering staff a basic course in environmental awareness.
Sections 1 and 2 can be used in developing the processes and environmental culture
necessary for a successful program. Section 2.1 asks you to rate your council’s processes
for environmental management. The remainder of section 2 shows how you can improve
these processes to develop a culture in council that includes environmental concerns.
You can then complete the gap analysis in section 3.2 to provide a snapshot of your
council’s programs and how effective they are. This exercise will highlight which program
elements need to be implemented in order to improve the environmental management
performance of their operational teams.
In section 4, each program element offers a rationale, a proposed methodology and
examples of program elements that have been introduced by councils across the state.
The relevant case studies in section 5 should be read in line with the relevant program
element from section 4.
A basic fl owchart of how this program could be developed is outlined in fi gure 1.1.
This guide is not meant to be the fi nal word on the development of those operational
teams. It contains references to excellent publications, websites and training programs.
If required these should be located and used to provide further information towards
developing an effective environmental management system to suit any council.
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
Group 2 councils – develop
and implement program
elements including:
• environmental
awareness training
• environmental inductions
(section 4.1)
Group 3 councils – develop and
implement program elements
• standard operating procedures
• environmental risk assessment
• internal audit systems
• emergency response
• managing subcontractors
• forming links to occupational
health and safety
Group 4 councils – develop
and implement program
elements including:
• progression to certification
(section 4.3)
• environmental components
in job descriptions
Read sections 1, 2 and 3
of guide to gain an overview
of processes and programs
Develop necessary project plans
(section 3.3)

Review program

Assess your council’s processes
for environmental management
(section 2.1)
Establish corporate and operational
working parties
Assess your council’s programs
for environmental management
(section 3.2)
Figure 1.1 Flowchart showing the development of programs for environmental management
of council operations
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Before you start
1.2 Six reasons to put a program in place
It may be hard to convince management and councillors that resources should be
allocated to developing the environmental management capacity of operational teams.
There are at least six reasons to put a program in place, and these are explained in more
detail below:
• meeting statutory responsibilities
• council’s responsibility as a leader
• council’s policy commitments
• it’s in the management plan
• the community expects it
• . . . (and most importantly) the local environment deserves it.
Meeting statutory responsibilities
It is worth pointing out that councils have statutory responsibilities to undertake their
activities in an environmentally responsible manner.
Local Government Act 1993
The fi rst stated purpose of the NSW Local Government Act (section 7a) is ‘to provide the
legal framework for an effective, effi cient, environmentally responsible open system of
local government in New South Wales’. Another stated purpose of the Act (section 7e) is
to ‘require councils, councillors and council employees to have regard to the principal of
ecologically sustainable development in carrying out their responsibilities’.
The Act (section 8) sets out the charter of local councils and includes the requirements
for a council to ‘properly manage, develop, protect, restore, enhance and conserve the
environment of the area for which it is responsible’.
Section 403 of the Act sets out the contents of a council’s draft management plan and
also requires that the statement of principal activities should include particulars with
respect to ‘activities to properly manage, develop, protect, restore and conserve the
So the Local Government Act sets the broad legal requirement for councils to ensure
their operational activities are carried out in an environmentally responsible manner. It
also specifi es that a council’s management plan should include programs that ensure a
council’s operational activities are carried out in a way that ‘properly . . . protects . . . and
conserves the environment’.
Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act)
The POEO Act is the main environmental protection law in New South Wales. The POEO
Act’s offences include:
• polluting waters without an environment protection licence; and
• specifi c offences relating to activities causing air, noise or land pollution.
There is clear authority under the law for DECC to act on behalf of the Environment
Protection Authority (EPA) against a councillor or individual employee of council, as well
as the council as an organisation, if it is clear that they have breached provisions of the
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
Act has three tiers of offences. For the most serious offences (Tier 1), the defendant
may use ‘due diligence’ or ‘all reasonable care’ as a defence. This defence cannot
be used for less serious offences (Tier 2 or 3), which are ‘strict liability’ offences (i.e.
the prosecution does not need to prove intent). Offences related to council operations
are most likely to be Tier 2 or 3 offences.The EPA’s Prosecution Guidelines provide
information on the factors the EPA will consider in determining whether a prosecution
for an alleged offence is appropriate. These considerations include any mitigating
The penalties for breaches of the POEO Act can be signifi cant.
Minor breaches can result in a penalty infringement notice (PIN) with a penalty of up
to $1500 for an organisation, while the maximum fi nes that can be imposed on an
organisation are up to $1 million plus clean-up costs and damages, and for individuals up
to $250,000 and seven years jail, as well as clean-up costs and damages.
A number of councils have been prosecuted under this Act. DECC maintains a public
register of successful prosecutions in the POEO public register that can be accessed on
the DECC website, www.environment.nsw.gov.au/prpoeo or by calling Environment Line
on 131 555.
Councils are the appropriate regulatory authority (ARA) under the POEO Act for most of
the development activities that take place within their area. As the ARA, council can issue
notices and fi nes for breaches of environmental laws.
Other legislation
While the two Acts outlined above are the main ones relating to council operations that
councils need to be aware of, there are many other pieces of environmental legislation
that councils need to comply with, including for example:
• Coastal Protection Act 1979
• Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
• Fisheries Management Act 1994
• Heritage Act 1977
• National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
• Native Vegetation Act 2003
• Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995
• Pesticides Act 1999.
For further information
For information on environmental law:
Department of Environment and Climate Change Environment Line
Phone: 131 555
Environmental Defenders Offi ce
Phone: 02 9262 6989
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Before you start
Council’s responsibility as a leader
As well as being the major manager of infrastructure, councils are also the ARA for
premises that are not scheduled under the POEO Act, including small and medium-sized
It could signifi cantly affect council’s credibility if their enforcement offi cers are issuing
penalty notices against small business and local community members for breaches of
pollution laws when their own operational activities are not up to standard.
Council’s policy commitments
Nearly all councils will have an environmental policy or statement even if this is only quite
basic. Select the policy commitments that support the case for your operational project
and put these in the rationale of its project plan. Council may also have a sustainability
plan which you may fi nd useful.
Whether or not it has an environmental statement or policy, a council should be prepared
to demonstrate that the environment has been considered in the development of its
management plans.
It is important that your programs have policy support. Enthusiastic staff have often
developed excellent programs, but these programs are diffi cult to maintain when
the enthusiast moves on. Formal policy support gives programs a longer-term future.
As a fi rst step in policy development have a look at what other councils in your area
have done.
It’s in the management plan
All NSW councils are required to develop a management plan. Section 403 of the
Local Government Act sets out the required contents of this plan and requires that the
statement of principal activities should include particulars with respect to ‘activities
to properly manage, develop, protect, restore and conserve the environment’. There
should be a positive commitment in your council management plan about minimising the
environmental impact of council’s operational activities.
Most NSW councils have developed stormwater management plans. Have a look at your
council’s stormwater management plan. You may fi nd a statement or commitment to
ensuring council activities are managed in a way that improves the quality of stormwater
fl owing into local waterways.
Some councils also have plans for managing:
• waste
• the environment/sustainability
• bushland
• waterways
• environmental purchasing.
Have a look through the available plans and identify the statements committing councils
to ensuring that operational activities are carried out in an environmentally responsible
manner. Incorporate these commitments in the rationale for your project plan.
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
The community expects it
DEC’s ‘Who cares about the environment’ (2006) has identifi ed the high level of
community demand for local environments to be properly protected.
The 2006 survey
found, for example, that:
• 53% of people ranked the environment ‘a very important part of their lives’. Only family
(92%) and friends (67%) ranked more highly
• 87% of people say they are concerned a ‘great deal’ or a ‘fair amount’ about
environmental problems
• 71% of people think local councils could do more to help protect the local environment.
Other groups identifi ed as needing to do more included retailers (66%), state
government (81%), Commonwealth government (80%), manufacturing industry (77%)
and individuals (81%).
Clearly there is a high level of community expectation that local councils accept and act
on their responsibilities to protect local environments. The public tends to react negatively
when a council’s failure to meet these responsibilites results in environmental harm or
fi nes.
. . . (and most importantly) the local environment deserves it
Increasing population in many council areas and the associated impacts are placing
greater pressure on our waterways, air, soil, fl ora and fauna. Poorly managed council
operational activities will only add to that pressure, whereas well-managed activities can
actually improve local environments, even as populations increase.
In the end, it’s the local environment, that directly affects the quality of life in a local
council area.
You can use any or all of the above information to help you convince your council they
need to develop an effective operational management program.
* For more information on the 2006 study see www.environment.nsw.gov.au/whocares
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Before you start
1.3 Ten tips for success
During consultations carried out during the preparation of this guide, council offi cers were
asked to nominate the barriers they had to overcome in order to develop and implement
successful programs.
Their advice has been used to develop the following ten ‘tips for success’. Read through
the list, remember the tips, and even pin them up on the wall in your workplace. Appendix
A provides a one-page list of these tips – you can copy it, put it in a central place, and
refer to it regularly.
Plan, plan, plan
There are lots of different actions that need regular attention in a program like this. Put
them down in a plan. A written plan will also make it easier for you to explain to people
what you are doing, why you are doing it and why they should become involved.
Recognise there will be barriers
Some of the potential barriers include:
• lack of management support

when you submit your plan to management don’t necessarily expect an enthusiastic

many council managers can be reluctant to commit the time and resources to a new
environmental program

environmental management is still seen by some as an ‘added extra’ and not a part of
s core business
• lack of operational team support

some members of the operational teams will struggle to accept ‘yet another thing’

they have to take into account when doing their jobs
• lack of operational management support

ensuring the environment is properly protected takes time and resources

operational budgets and the time allocated to complete projects will need to take this
into account (in the early stages of this type of program they often don’t)

lack of time

be patient; developing the right system takes time.
‘Train’ the people above you
People above you in the hierarchy will not necessarily know, understand and support
what you are trying to do.
You should build presentations into your project plan to update line and senior
management on a regular basis. This will also help develop their sense of ownership of
the program.
Don’t go it alone
Even if you are just starting off with developing and delivering a basic environmental
awareness course you shouldn’t try to do this by yourself. From the start, involve council’s
personnel or training offi cers. You should also develop some components of the basic
environmental awareness course in discussion with team leaders or supervisors and their
line managers. As your program develops you will need to involve other people in sharing
the workload. If you try and do it all by yourself you could end up burnt out and frustrated.
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
Develop ownership
Apart from sharing the workload, involving others helps to develop a sense of ownership
of the activity as well. Having other people as well as yourself ‘own’ the program gives it
a much better chance of success, particularly if you move on to another part of council or
another job altogether. Wherever possible involve supervisors, team leaders and gangers
in the development of your programs.
Make sure you get a budget
Everything costs money. Even a basic training program delivered by you will come at a
minimum cost to cover printing, refreshments and other resources. You should ask for a
dedicated budget within your project plan.
Make sure you also include a component in the budget for training yourself (see below).
It is also important that you identify budget commitments that will be required in future
Learn to prioritise
Where to start? That is always one of the key questions. As you develop your plan,
particularly as you move from one group to the next, it will be important to prioritise.
You cannot do everything at once.
Councils with very effective environmental management systems have taken around four
to fi ve years to develop them.
Train yourself
Build into your budget an allowance for developing your own knowledge and skills. You
don’t know all the answers and there are some excellent programs, for example, on
environmental awareness, environmental management systems, internal environmental
auditing and risk assessment.
Recognise good practice
A lot of time and energy is often dedicated to fi nding out what’s going wrong and fi xing
it. Dedicate some part of your program to identifying good practice, and then recognise
that good practice through your presentations to management and other elements of your
communications program. Recognising good practice will generate a lot more interest
within your operational teams as well.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
You spend all your time on your programs and have very little energy left for telling people
what you are doing. Include a communications plan in your project plan at all stages of
this activity. Allocate yourself time to implement it as well. Tell your management, tell your
councillors, tell your operational teams and tell the community what council is up to.
Effective well-managed communications will play a critical role in developing that all-
important ‘positive environmental culture’.
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Before you start
These tips sound simple and they do make sense. It is important however that you
refer to them regularly and make sure you are putting them in place. Using them will
help ensure your program is successful in both the short and the long term and that you
continue to enjoy what you do.
1.4 To EMS or not to EMS?
All of those councils with excellent programs in place have adopted a systematic
approach. This took time, rigour and resources, yet they all maintain that the effort was
worthwhile. For most of the councils, this approach was built around an environmental
management system (EMS).
What is an EMS?
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defi nes an EMS as ‘the part
of the overall management system that includes organisational structure, planning
activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources for developing,
implementing, achieving, reviewing and maintaining the environmental policy’ (ISO
14001, 1996).
In simple terms an EMS is the framework that helps an organisation follow its
environmental objectives effi ciently and effectively in a systematic way. DECC
identifi es the primary benefi t of an EMS as giving an organisation a way of managing its
environmental performance.
A number of councils described an EMS as ‘a management framework that guides the
development and implementation of their environmental management programs’.
Establishing an EMS
According to the ISO guidelines, there are fi ve broad phases in the establishment and
development of an EMS and these can be paraphrased as follows:
1 Defi ne where you are at now in terms of environmental management. What is your
current environmental performance? What is your environmental policy?
2 Defi ne the purpose of the EMS and establish a plan. Why are we doing this? What do
we hope to achieve? How are we going to do it?
3 Implement the EMS. Put the system into effect and support it.
4 Check and correct. Analyse performance within the system and correct any problems.
5 Review and improve. Modify the system for continual improvement.
If you are considering only the development and delivery of an environmental awareness
course, then the whole idea of an EMS is probably daunting. If however you plan to
develop a more rigorous program you are encouraged to investigate having an EMS.
An excellent place to begin is with the general documents provided by Standards
Australia, (such as Environmental management systems – general guidelines on
principles, systems and supporting techniques (AS/NZS 14004:2004)). EMS training
courses are also available.
An EMS can provide the framework and the rigour your program will need to succeed in
the short, medium and long term.
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
Case studies
5.1 Developing an environmental management system (EMS): a metropolitan
experience – North Sydney Council
5.2 Developing an integrated management system: a regional experience –
Tamworth City Council
Environmental management systems – specifi cation with guidance for use
(AS/NZS ISO 14001: 2004)
Environmental management systems – general guidelines on principles, systems and
supporting techniques (AS/NZS ISO 14004: 2004)
Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing
(AS/NZS ISO 19011: 2003)
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Getting the processes right
2. Getti ng the processes ri ght
2.1 Reviewing your council’s processes
2.2 Developing a positive environmental culture
2.3 Developing corporate ownership and commitment
2.4 Developing operational ownership and commitment
2.5 Developing a communication strategy
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
2.1 Reviewing your council’s processes
Councils across the state vary from those who are thinking about getting an operations
development program underway to those that have a certifi ed internationally accredited
environmental management system in place.
Most councils are somewhere in between.
So if you are thinking of doing something about developing the capacity of your
operational teams, the best fi rst step is to identify where your council is at now.
In order to identify gaps in your council’s processes, use the scale below to rate your
council’s performance in each of the areas in table 2.1.
1 Non-existent
2 Poor
3 Average
4 Good
5 Excellent
Table 2.1 Reviewing council processes
s performance
Cross-references to further
Is there a culture within council where
‘environmental management’ is
recognised and supported as a core
2.2 Developing a positive
environmental culture
Do you have corporate ownership
and commitment to improving the
environmental management of your
operational teams?
2.3 Developing corporate
ownership and commitment
Do you have operational ownership
and commitment to improving the
environmental management of your
operational areas?
2.4 Developing operational
ownership and commitment
Do you have an effective
communication strategy promoting
your environmental improvement
programs within your council?
2.5 Developing a
communication strategy
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Getting the processes right
2.2 Developing a positive environmental culture
Here is the challenge: how do you develop a culture within council where environmental
management is recognised and supported as a core business and not an ‘added extra?’
Your fi rst step may need to be convincing your council colleagues that environmental
management really is part of council core business and if it is not, it should be. Refer to
section 1.2 ‘Six reasons to put a program in place’ for help in putting your justifi cation
It’s not however just a matter of convincing management and then having everything
else fall into place. Developing and maintaining a positive environmental culture and the
programs that support that culture is not a simple task. It takes time, resources and rigour.
Some councils have suggested that it can take up to fi ve years to develop a positive,
sustainable environmental culture.
You should put systems in place to introduce new programs and review existing ones.
You should ensure that communication across all sectors of council is effective, that
good practices and programs are appropriately recognised and that poor practices and
programs are appropriately dealt with. The following sections outline some of the basic
processes that should be put in place to develop that culture.
Be aware of the culture and its importance. Councils with a positive environmental culture
continue to develop their programs year after year. Those that have programs in place
without the supporting culture often fi nd their most worthwhile programs disappear once
the offi cer responsible for that program moves on.
Cultural change takes time and attention.
It is worth the effort.
2.3 Developing corporate ownership and commitment
Any program designed to develop the environmental management capacity of operational
teams needs support from a broad cross-section of council.
The fi rst person you will need to have support your proposal will be your supervisor
and, from there, all management up to director level. Use section 1.2 from this guide to
develop your case.
Once you have obtained that support you will need to put in place processes that
encourage support from other areas of council. You will also need a budget and other
In order to encourage this support and identify and confi rm resource requirements, you
should convene a management stakeholder meeting. The purpose of this meeting will be
to consider the rationale for an operations development program and accept responsibility
for moving that program forward.
The council personnel who could be involved in this meeting include:
• section managers or equivalent
• divisional managers or equivalent
• operational managers or equivalent
• selected gangers/leading hands
• environmental offi cer/manager
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• natural resource managers
• occupational health and safety offi cer
• training offi cer/manager
• business manager
• human resources manager
• interested councillors
• council planners
• contracts managers
• other interested council personnel.
A typical agenda for the meeting would cover:
1 Reasons for developing the environmental management capacity of operational teams
(see section 1.2, Six reasons to put a program in place)
2 What council has done to date in the development of its operational teams
(see section 3.2, Rating council’s performance)
3 What some other councils have done to develop the environmental management
capacity of their operational teams (see section 5, Case studies)
4 What council needs to do to develop its operational teams (see section 4, Improving
environmental performance)
5 How to take the project forward (see section 3.3, Developing project plans).
At the fi rst meeting, broad options should be presented for consideration after which you
will probably be required to develop a more detailed project plan.
It is very important you include detailed budgetary and resourcing requirements within
that project plan and identify that these are likely to extend over a number of years.
As a follow-up to the fi rst meeting you may consider forming a corporate working
party which could meet regularly (e.g. quarterly) to support the development and
implementation of your project plans. Try to identify people within this fi rst meeting
who are supporters of what you are trying to do and encourage them to be involved in
the working party. The higher the level of support that you can gather from within the
management hierarchy, the better chance you will have of securing long-term support for
your programs.
2.4 Developing operational ownership and
Operational personnel have come under more and more pressure in recent years. The
way they do their jobs has changed for lots of reasons. While most operational personnel
accept the need for these changes, many do not like it, particularly when the changes in
practice are not supported by appropriate changes in project timetables or budgets.
It is strongly recommended therefore, if you are developing a program for your
operational teams, that you identify leaders from within the ranks of the operational
teams who could become champions of the environmental program. Speak to the line
managers: they will know who could take on this leadership role.
Invite these gangers/leading hands and their line managers to a meeting very early in
the development of your project plan. Put the environmental challenges to them and ask
them what they think would be the best way to deal with those challenges.
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Use this input to develop your project plan. Ask the group to review the project plan and
accept responsibility for discussing the project plan with their team members.
These ‘champions’ should also be involved in the development of the main components
of your project plan. If for example you are developing an environmental awareness
course you should clarify your objectives and then discuss how best to achieve those
objectives with these champions. Involving them at the early stages of development and
throughout all components of the program will encourage a level of ownership within the
operational networks. This could help to overcome the problem of operational members
seeing this as ‘just another thing being forced upon them by management’.
A review of all the program elements in section 4 would indicate that your champions
should be involved in the development of most of them. They should have a say in the
most effective way to:
• develop and deliver the environmental awareness course
• incorporate environmental considerations into new staff inductions
• develop and deliver training about how to incorporate environmental components into
standard operating procedures
• develop and implement an internal audit program
• develop a method for dealing with poor practice and recognising good practice
• develop and implement emergency response systems
• develop and implement a risk assessment process
• develop an effective subcontractor management system
• link environmental and safety programs together
• link with other relevant council programs
• incorporate environmental components into job descriptions.
Development of ownership within the operational ranks will also give your program a
much better chance of long-term success.
2.5 Developing a communication strategy
Communication is often treated as an ‘added extra’ in operational development programs
and not as a part of ‘core business’. Yet consultations during the preparation of this guide
reinforced the importance of effective communication in the development of a positive
environmental culture throughout council. Some possible elements of an effective
communication strategy are listed below.
Program theme branding
Some councils have successfully involved their operational teams in the development of
a theme or slogan for their operations development program, and then incorporated the
theme into all program promotional material.
Email program updates
Monthly program updates can be sent by broadcast email to all key stakeholders involved
in the initial management meeting and other interested personnel. Copies of the emails
can also be posted on the notice boards at council depots and other work sites.
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Toolbox talks
A number of councils have a ‘toolbox talk’ program. This involves either the ganger or
leading hand working through issues with their crews. Toolbox talks can also incorporate
some level of training.
Some councils have found it extremely worthwhile to incorporate information about the
environmental development program into their toolbox talks. They did identify, however,
that leaders of the talks should receive individual training on the program to allow them to
talk with more confi dence about its implementation.
Formal presentations
In some councils formal presentations on the operations development program are made
every six months to senior management and, if appropriate, councillors and members of
council’s community environmental liaison group or similar body. This ensured all senior
management and leading local community fi gures were aware of developments in the
Signs and posters
A number of councils use basic in-house signs and posters to promote positive
environmental messages. These signs and posters were displayed in strategic places at
depots, lunchrooms, work sheds and council offi ces.
Messages on payslips
Positive environmental messages can be put on payslips to reinforce the importance of
protecting local environments. Payslips may possibly be the most closely read piece of
paper within councils.
Council internal and external newsletters
These can be used to promote the good work of the operational teams both internally and
to the broader community. It is important that the operational teams see any newsletters
containing an article about their work.
In developing a communication strategy talk to your council colleagues. Some may have
specialist communications skills. Ask them to look over your communication strategy and
see if they can refi ne it for you. (Remember tip 4: don’t go it alone.)
The strongest message of all from the consultations in relation to communication,
however, was that it should be a part of the program and not an optional extra.
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Getting the programs right
3. Getti ng the programs ri ght
3.1 Introduction 20
3.2 Rating council’s performance 20
3.3 Developing project plans 22
3.4 Developing specialised knowledge and skills 24
3.5 Program review 25
3.6 Other project management issues 26
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3.1 Introduction
Effective long-term programs can only be built on a sound base. That’s why up until this
section, this guide has focused on putting the processes in place that will provide that
There are a number of program issues that also need to be considered before you get
underway. The program issues and tools outlined here will provide the specifi c detail you
need to develop effective programs.
The best fi rst step is to identify what you need to do. The checklist provided in section
3.2, Rating council’s performance, works like a basic gap analysis. From this gap analysis
you will have a list of the program elements that council could consider introducing (tip
7, Learn to prioritise). A priority order for the introduction of these program elements
needs to be established. This priority order should be developed in consultation with your
corporate and operational working parties (tip 5, Develop ownership), taking into account
the relative environmental impacts of different council operations.
Once the priority order is established, it’s time to start developing project plans (tip 1,
Plan, plan, plan). A recommended format for project plans is included in section 3.3.
In completing the project plans, you will identify the specifi c knowledge and skills you
may need to develop or seek out in order to effectively implement that particular program
Section 3.4, Developing specialised knowledge and skills, offers some ideas on how best
to complete that part of your work.
Finally, section 3.6 outlines a range of other issues identifi ed through consultations as
being important considerations for anyone developing a detailed, long-term program.
3.2 Rating council’s performance
There is more to a successful program than just having the systems in place. It is
important to identify whether those systems and program elements are being successfully
implemented. In doing so you will also be identifying what needs to be done in order to
take your council program forward.
You are also encouraged to think about the ‘big picture’ issues like having a positive
environmental culture, taking corporate and operational ownership and developing
effective communication strategies. These do not just develop by themselves, but need
attention just as much as the other program elements.
Table 3.1 will assist you in carrying out a quick and simple analysis of the programs you
have in place at your council. Use the worksheet to rate council’s performance (see
section 2.1) as before from 1 (non-existent) to 5 (excellent) for each program element. If
there is no aspect of a program element in place, rate the council’s performance as a 1.
Ask your corporate and operational working parties to work through the worksheet too.
From there you will get an excellent idea of where you stand and what you need to work
on at the program level.
The scores will quickly show you where your council has made a start and where further
work is needed. If you have scored 1 for each of the program elements in the table, you
are a group 1 council.
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Getting the programs right
Table 3.1 Reviewing program elements
performance (1-5)
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4
elementFurther information can be found at:
Formal recognition of council commitment
through policy and management plans
1.2 Six reasons to put a program In place
Basic environmental awareness training for all
operational personnel

4.1.1 Program element: environmental awareness training.
Environmental component in all staff inductions
4.1.2 Program element: environmental inductions
Environmentally focused operating procedures
for all council operational activities
4.2.1 Program element: standard operating procedures
Environmental risk assessments for all council
operational activities
4.2.2 Program element: risk assessments
Internal environmental audits in place
4.2.3 Program element: internal audit systems
Emergency spill response system in place
4.2.4 Program element: emergency response
Effective system to manage all council
4.2.5 Program element: managing subcontractors
Forming links with OH&S management
4.2.6 Program element: forming links to occupational
health & safety
Environmental performance indicators in job
descriptions for gangers/leading hands

4.3.1 Program element: incorporation of environmental
components in job descriptions
Towards accreditation

4.3.2 Program element: towards certifi cation
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Now that you have identifi ed where you stand and what you need to do, it is important to
prioritise the process and program elements that need attention (tip 7, Learn to prioritise).
Once you have done that, you need to develop project plans for each of the elements
and processes you want to implement. The next section outlines in detail how best to put
those project plans together.
Now is probably a good time to discuss with your working parties whether council wants
to achieve an average, good or excellent standard in each of the processes and program
3.3 Developing project plans
Remember tip 1, Plan, plan, plan. Many councils who have successfully developed
positive environmental cultures and, from that, effective long-term environmental
operations development programs, have stressed the importance of formal planning.
Some council comments about project plans have included:
• ‘It’s pretty silly to keep it all in your head, you should write it down’
• ‘Put it down on paper’
• ‘Show it around – it gives your project credibility’
• ‘They convince people of your professionalism and commitment’
• ‘Be prepared to re-write your plans regularly’
• ‘Use them to get appropriate budget allocations’
• ‘They give management confi dence in what you are trying to do’.
Even getting a straightforward project element like the development and delivery of an
environmental awareness course underway requires the organisation of a number of key
components. A fi rst step, for example, with this particular activity would be to get your
operations and corporate working parties together in order to discuss:
• who needs to attend the training
• what the training needs to cover
• who should develop the fi nal training product
• who should deliver the training
• where and when the training should be delivered
• how the training will be evaluated
• what budget will be required
• who will be responsible for organising operational participation in the training
• what special skills and knowledge will be required
• how council’s senior management and the community will be informed about the
All of these issues should be considered in the development of a project plan.
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Getting the programs right
Components of a project plan
Your council may well have an existing format for project plans. If so, fi nd out what it is
and use it. If not, there are a number of key elements that could be incorporated into a
project plan. They are:
• project name
• project offi cer
• project element/title
• overview – provides an overview of what the project is about and what it hopes to
achieve (i.e. the project objectives)
• rationale – provides the reasons for putting the plan in place (see section 1.2)
• project components – describes the main components of the project. For the
environmental awareness course example, the components would be:

developing course content

nalising target groups

identifying and confi rming

identifying and confi rming

identifying and confi
rming evaluation strategies

identifying and confi rming

identifying and confi
rming people responsible for organising operational participation

identifying and confi
rming communication strategy
• methodology – outlines how each of the project components will be developed and
• budget – outlines the budget required for the effective completion of the project, and
ensures likely budgetary needs for subsequent years are identifi ed in the initial project
• timetable – identifi es your fi rst program milestone and then very approximate dates
for the completion of other activities. You should track how well you meet the program
milestone and use this as an indicator when considering future milestones
• communication – identifi es how the program will be promoted to the various key
stakeholder groups before, during and after the training
• evaluation/performance indicators – identifi es how the effectiveness or otherwise of the
training will be assessed – a useful way of establishing these performance indicators
would be to ask your project planners and your working parties to complete the
following two sentences in relation to each program element:

‘This project element will be a success in the short term when . . .’

‘This project element will be a success in the long term when . . .’

evaluation criteria for an environmental awareness program would include for example:

short term – increase in participants’
basic environmental knowledge. This could be
assessed by asking all participants to complete a survey both before and after the
training program

another short-term indicator could be changes in purchasing practice through the
store (e.g. increases in orders for sediment and erosion control fencing, straw bales,
sediment socks, chemical spill and clean up kits etc.)

long term – improvements in environment management practice which can best be
measured through an internal audit program

identify the special skills and support resources that may be required to effectively
implement this part of your program.
Appendix B provides a framework project plan to assist council offi cers in developing their
own project plans.
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Reviewing project plans
Once you have developed a draft project plan for a particular program element you
should ask members of your working parties to review the plan.
Finalising project plans
Project plans are never fi nal. It is important that you are willing to modify project plans
at any time. It is strongly recommended that a document control system be developed
for project plans. It is also important once you amend a plan that you send a copy of the
amended plan to anybody who has received and is working with a prior version of the
Project credibility and longevity
Well-written and managed project plans usually give a project a level of credibility with
council managers. Project plans outline what is going to happen by when, how much it
will cost and how council will know whether it has been successful or otherwise. Council
managers can identify for themselves the likely outcomes of a project and also speak with
some confi dence about how it is to be planned and implemented.
The other main advantage of project plans is that other offi cers from council deliver a
project if the initial project offi cer becomes unavailable.
3.4 Developing specialised knowledge and skills
A single council offi cer is unlikely to have detailed specialised knowledge of
environmental law, emergency spill response, internal environmental audits, policy
development, environmental management systems and sediment and erosion control.
The effective implementation of a complete operations development program will require
a broad range of knowledge and skills that may already exist within your working parties.
If so, utilise them. Staff from adjoining councils or regional council coordinators may also
be able to contribute. You could also use external consultants.
There is however a suite of skills that should be developed in-house in order to ensure
the program has a solid knowledge base. To develop that knowledge base, you could
provide specialised training to relevant key participants in the operations development
At a minimum, specialised training should be provided in project management and
basic environmental management systems. In developing project plans you may
also identify the need for specialist in-house knowledge and skills in emergency spill
response, sediment and erosion control, environmental law, environmental audits and
communications management.
It is important therefore that a budget be set aside for developing these specialist skills in
key stakeholders.
If you plan to use external training providers or other consultants it is recommended that
you talk to your neighbouring councils fi rst to fi nd out who they have used effectively.
Once you have identifi ed what you need, it is important that you speak to council’s human
resources and training specialists for advice.
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Getting the programs right
3.5 Program review
How will you know if the various program elements in your operations development
program are making an overall contribution to achieving council’s environmental
objectives? The success of any program can only be determined through review. Ideally,
a review methodology or framework should be established prior to implementing the
program. Findings from this review can feed back into each program stage, forming the
basis of a council’s continuous improvement approach.
The review should look at two main areas – program implementation and outcomes.
Review of implementation
The review of the program’s implementation should happen fairly regularly, for example
monthly. These reviews are effectively ‘spot checks’ to see that everyone in the plan is
doing what the plan says they should do. If everything is on track, great. If some of the
actions aren’t being implemented, look at why. This could be because the people involved
are not aware of or fully understand their roles, or they lack commitment, or some of
the actions in the plan are harder to do than expected or are inappropriate in practice.
Some fi ne-tuning of the plan or improved communications may be needed to fi x any
implementation issues.
Review of outcomes
The project plan framework outlined in section 3.3 notes that planners should identify
evaluation criteria for each program element – this will help the review of the plan’s
outcomes. The review could initially compare the evaluations from each element, but they
will really only give you an idea about that particular element. Council should also review
the whole operations development program. This review should concentrate on both the
outcomes achieved and the effectiveness or otherwise of the processes. In particular:
• compare program outcomes with the initial program objectives (did the program do
what we intended?)
• evaluate the effectiveness of those outcomes (could we have done this differently?)
• determine what, if any, changes need to be made to the program (do we need to
change the objectives, the way we evaluate outcomes, or program elements?).
If the outcomes meet the expectations, the review can ask what next stages can be
implemented to further improve the program. The results of reviews can, importantly, also
justify the operation of a system by identifying the associated benefi ts (such as improved
environmental performance, increased morale, etc.).
As a part of this review you could speak to council’s enforcement personnel
(environmental health offi cers, rangers) to identify any improvements in performance or
environmental outcomes they have identifi ed. While the information from the enforcement
personnel will be anecdotal, it will still be useful.
Making the results count
Once the review is completed, it is a good idea to organise a presentation to senior
management and, if appropriate, councillors. Presentations of this nature are important to
encourage the ongoing commitment of senior management and elected offi cials. At the
end of the review, pencil in the date of the next system review. Most councils complete a
system review every 12 or 24 months.
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Within the context of this resource guide, program review is the only mechanism available
for determining whether a council is progressing from one category to another (e.g.
from group 2 to group 3; see table 3.1). Such progression is based on whether they
are successfully implementing a more structured and strategic approach for reducing
environmental impacts arising from the council’s operations.
Where councils are moving towards establishing an environmental or integrated
management system, review fi ndings can also feed into a corrective actions framework
that allows for the issues or problems to be addressed as they arise.
3.6 Other project management issues
Some issues have occasionally been identifi ed by council offi cers as important
considerations for councils developing operationally focused programs. A brief overview
of each of those issues is outlined below.
Document control
Project plans should be regularly reviewed and amended in line with outcomes; standard
operating procedures should change as machinery or best practice improves; internal
audit documents develop as they are used in the fi eld.
It is very important to put a system in place that ensures all relevant stakeholders receive
copies of any amended documents.
A number of software programs have document control systems. These work well,
provided a list of relevant stakeholders is maintained.
Underestimating resistance to change
The culture of councils varies. In some the predominant culture is to embrace change
while other councils have a more conservative approach to ‘getting the job done’.
There can be sub-cultures within the dominant culture of council, so even if your council
appears to be leading the way in some areas of environmental management, you may
occasionally have to deal with someone who does not welcome changing a system that in
their opinion has ‘kept council out of trouble for the past 15 years’.
On the other hand you may work within a council that has a reputation for not changing
much at all. Within this type of council you may still fi nd people who are willing to
investigate changes to the way things are done. That’s why it is important to convene
the working parties very early on in your project development. In the last 20 years, local
government has undergone signifi cant change, and so some resistance to further change
should not be surprising. It is important however to anticipate that resistance, and to have
good plans and committed colleagues in place to deal with that culture.
Falling back into bad habits
Changing behaviours can take time, particularly if they have been in place for many
In the early days of your project, when the messages from training are fresh, people will
change the way they do things. Yet once the training fi nishes and the communication
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Getting the programs right
drops off and some minor hurdles get in the way, there will be a tendency in some council
operational areas to go back to doing things the old and less challenging way.
That’s why a regular review, internal audits, consistent communication and a means of
recognising good practice are all important components of an operations development
program. Providing this type of support on a regular and consistent basis helps overcome
the temptation of reverting to the old way of doing things.
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Improving environmental performance
4. Improvi ng envi ronmental performance
4.1 Becoming a group 2 council 30
4.2 Becoming a group 3 council 37
4.3 Becoming a group 4 council 58
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4.1 Becoming a group 2 council
Group 2 councils are those that know they need to have a basic program in place and
want to get something underway. If you are a group 1 council, the journey to group 4 may
appear to be long and tough.
Effective operational development programs should be considered in smaller achievable
steps. Change can take time, but if rushed can lead to disappointment.
It is also important to make sure the processes outlined in section 2 of this guide are put
in place for even the most basic of programs.
Every group 4 council, including those with internationally accredited environmental
management systems for their operational activities, began by developing and delivering
an environmental awareness course.
So in order to get from group 1 to group 2 you should:
• read through the program elements for group 2 councils carefully (table 3.1)
• develop a project plan (section 3.3)
• organise your corporate and operational working parties to develop and review your
project plans
• try to fi nd peers at other councils who can provide support
• get to work.
Successful operational programs are about energy, focus and commitment. Through
putting the processes in place, developing your project plans and seeking support from
both inside and outside your council, you will be giving yourself an excellent chance to
achieve your objectives.
The program elements for a group 2 council are:
• council commitment (section 2)
• environmental awareness training
• environmental inductions.
Environmental awareness training
Enhanced environmental awareness is an important fi rst step in encouraging improved
environmental management performance. If people don’t know or understand the
importance of more effective environmental management on job sites, they will not
change their practices.
That is why the cornerstone of any effective long-term environmental improvement
program should be a basic environmental awareness course for all appropriate
The objectives of this course should be:
• the personal benefi ts of a better-protected local environment, including quality of life
(health and lifestyle) and a better future for children
• the legal responsibility of every individual at all levels in an organisation to ensure the
environment is protected
• the increasing community expectation for better-protected local environments
• their council’s response to that increase in community expectations
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Improving environmental performance
• how their work has the potential to impact on the quality of life of the community, plant
and animal communities, air quality, water quality and soil
• the basic steps they need to take in order to minimise those impacts.
1 Course content
There are a number of courses on basic environmental awareness and protection.
Councils may decide however to develop their own environmental awareness course.
In that case, the fi rst step in developing course content is to decide on some clear and
concise objectives for the training. The objectives outlined in the example course in this
section are recommended as a good place to start.
The following sections provide a sample framework of a general environmental
awareness course.
2 Course development
Even if council decides to present one of the existing environmental awareness courses,
it is strongly recommended that appropriate council personnel be involved in ‘localising’
course content.
Appropriate personnel should include:
• council’s corporate and operations working parties
• council’s human resources or training manager to advise on course evaluation and
delivery. In the longer term, they could also be asked to advise on incorporating
appropriate environmental performance indicators in both operational, line management
and senior management job descriptions.
Involving these people at this early stage of the program should also encourage some
long-term ownership across council. It could also help to identify possible ‘champions’
who could be involved in other aspects of program development and delivery.
3 Course participants
It is important that all operational personnel and their direct line managers participate
in this course. There are signifi cant advantages in having direct line managers sit in on
at least one session so the operational personnel can see environmental awareness is
being promoted across the organisation.
Some councils insist on all people with either direct or indirect responsibility for
environmental management participating in at least one session of the environmental
awareness course.
Other councils have also encouraged their enforcement personnel to sit in on at least
one session. The value of having enforcement personnel participate is that operational
personnel can discuss any local issues of concern.
4 Evaluation
It is important that an evaluation strategy be developed before the course is delivered.
That way, the success or otherwise can be measured and, if appropriate, amendments
made. Councils have used various evaluation strategies in different timeframes, including
the following:
• immediate

participants invited to complete a survey both before and after the training course to
identify any changes in knowledge or awareness achieved through the training course
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operational personnel who may have diffi
culty in reading or writing would have
diffi culty completing these types of surveys and may need support
• short term

indicators may include changes in purchasing practice through the store (e.g.
increases in orders for sediment and erosion control fencing, straw bales, sediment
sock, chemical spill clean-up kits)

increases in requests for specialised training from operational personnel or
suggestions on changes in practice
• long

an internal environmental audit is the most ef
fective way of tracking improvements in
environmental management practice on council job sites.
5 Likely outcomes
The operational personnel who complete this basic environmental awareness training
course are likely to identify the need for:
• standard operating procedures
• internal environmental audits
• ongoing communication programs.
Recommendations on establishing each of these components are included in the
following sections of this guide.
Outline of an environmental awareness course for local councils

The panel on page 33 outlines details of an environmental awareness training course
that has been successfully delivered to operational personnel and other council offi cers at
more than 30 different councils across the state.
Case study
See 5.3 Environmental awareness and induction programs – Blue Mountains City Council
For further information
DECC and your neighbouring councils may be able to provide advice on environmental
awareness training programs they have implemented.

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Environmental awareness course (example)
Local council operations and environmental protection
This training program is suitable for all council operational staff and their direct
line management. Authorised offi cers (rangers, EHOs, and health and building
surveyors) have also joined the course in a number of council areas and all have
found it to be ‘most worthwhile’.
By participating in this course, operational staff, their managers and other relevant
council personnel will:
• understand and acknowledge the potential environmental impact of their work
• know what they need to do in order to minimise that impact
• understand and acknowledge their community, organisational and legal
environmental responsibilities
• understand what they need to do in order to ensure they meet their environmental
• know how to identify environmental risks at their job sites and what to do to
minimise those risks
• know who the appropriate regulatory authority (ARA) is for their job sites and how
to respond to a site visit from a representative of the ARA
• understand and acknowledge the need for an ongoing internal environmental
review program.
This course has fi ve main components:
• Introduction
• Identifying and managing the environmental impact of council operational
• What the laws require
• Identifying environmental risk
• Conclusion.
1 Introduction
This course opens with a discussion on the personal benefi ts of a better-protected
environment. All participants are required to complete the following statement:
‘I think it is important to protect the environment because . . .’
Gaining some type of personal commitment from all participants at the beginning of
the session provides an excellent platform for the rest of the training program. The
issue of ‘what difference can one person really make’ is also dealt with.
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
2 Identifying and managing the environmental impact of council
operational activities
Participants select one or two typical jobs that they do and identify the potential
environmental impact of those jobs. Participants usually work in small functional
groups for this exercise.
Parks and gardens staff could select refuelling, spraying or lawn mowing. Road
construction staff could select concrete cutting, footpath construction or hot mix
spreading, while water and sewer staff could select pipe laying or dealing with
sewer overfl ows.
Each group then explains to the rest of the class the potential impacts of their jobs.
The trainer asks each group the type of questions an offi cer from the Department
of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) might ask if they were to visit their job
sites. This helps to identify basic issues that could require attention (e.g. protection
of downstream drains, cleaning of tools after a concreting job or the availability of
material safety data sheets).
3 What the laws require
Participants are taken through a brief history of environmental law.
Participants are then provided with a scenario where they apply their own logic
to prepare a basic environmental law. Their logical environmental law is then
compared to the main elements of the POEO Act. This is an effective way of
teaching people about what laws require.
The key concept of due diligence and strict liability for pollution is also covered in
detail. Appropriate regulatory authorities are also explained, as are the powers of
DECC, the notices associated with the POEO Act, and the way council offi cers
should respond if they have an incident on their site or a visit from a DECC offi cer.
4 Identifying environmental risk
Through this component, participants complete a basic desktop review or audit of
one of their typical projects. They are asked to identify what would be the worst
possible thing that could go wrong on their job sites and how well placed they are to
deal with something going wrong.
Within this component a series of council case studies are reviewed and course
participants are asked to identify what should have been done differently. (If local
case studies are available they can form the main part of this component of the
course.) During this component a series of actual council prosecutions are also
5 Conclusion
The course concludes with each participant being asked to nominate what they will
do differently, if anything, as a result of completing the work and what they need to
do in order to ensure that they act at all times with due diligence and all reasonable
care. These responses are collated and provided to management.
Each course takes approximately 3–3.5 hours to complete.
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Environmental inductions
Ensuring all new staff are aware of their council’s commitment to protecting local
environments is important. This is best done through the council induction program.
Staff inductions are a legal requirement under occupational health and safety regulations
and so the process of formal inductions should already be in place at your council.
It’s a matter of convincing the people who put the induction program together that an
environmental component needs to be included (see section 1.2, Six reasons to put a
program in place).
Even though the prime focus of this project is developing the environmental management
capacity of operational teams, it is strongly recommended that an environmental
component be incorporated into the induction programs for all staff. Ensuring all people
who work for council know the organisation is serious about environmental management
will have a signifi cant infl uence on the development of an all-important ‘positive
environmental culture’.
In order to ensure an appropriate environmental component is included in council’s
induction program it is recommended that:
• the people responsible for the induction process (usually human resources staff) are
convinced of the importance of incorporating environmental components into staff
• the corporate and operations working parties, with the support of council environmental
specialists, develop the content of the induction component. A typical environmental
component of an induction program covers:

council’s commitment to environmental management

important local environmental issues

overview of council’s environmental management program and policies

environmental laws

individual environmental responsibilities

who to talk to for specialist environmental advice

further environmental training/development opportunities

if appropriate organise for one or two members of the working parties to be trained
in the delivery of the induction course. These staff should be supported by council’s
environmental specialists at each of the courses
• develop course materials in consultation with council’s training manager and/or human
resources manager
• organise for a senior member of staff to introduce the environmental induction
component. This will also confi rm council’s commitment to environmental protection
• develop and implement an evaluation strategy for the induction course
• review course content and delivery every two years or as directed by council’s training
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
A typical environmental induction program would include:
1 Local environment issues – presented by council’s environmental specialists
2 Why protecting the local environment is important – presented by the community
relations manager or environmental specialists
3 Environmental policy – all participants should be given a copy of the environmental
policy that outlines clearly the commitment their new employer has made in terms of
protecting local environments
4 Environmental management program – presented by the appropriate manager within
council. This should outline all the environmental management activities council has in
5 Environmental law – this section should provide a brief overview of relevant
environmental laws
6 Seeking specialist environmental advice – participants should be given contact details
for council’s environmental specialists
7 Raising issues of concern – here the process for council personnel to raise
environmental issues for concern should be identifi ed
8 Questions.
In developing course content it is strongly recommend that basic environment information
be sourced from a range of appropriate government and other agencies including the
Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW).
Phone: 131 555
Website: www.environment.nsw.gov.au
Information is available on environment protection, environmental issues and
environmental law.
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4.2 Becoming a group 3 council
Your environmental awareness program has been successfully developed and delivered
and all of council’s new personnel are aware of your organisation’s commitment
to protecting the environment and the programs they have in place to meet that
commitment. You are now well and truly a group 2 council.
In order to become a group 3 council you need to put a new range of additional program
elements in place (table 3.1). These elements are listed below and are described further
in the following sections:
• standard operating procedures
• environmental risk assessment
• internal environmental audits
• emergency spill response
• managing council subcontractors
• forming links with occupational health and safety (OH&S) management.
Many of the program elements can be developed simultaneously if time and resources
allow, or you could develop and implement one program element at a time. If you are to
do one at a time, decide the order of development with your corporate and operational
working parties. Once the order has been decided, develop your project plans. Plans
should be prepared at two levels. The fi rst plan will identify the program element as
a whole and the order in which you will be implementing them. If you are planning to
implement all group 3 program elements, allow around two to four years within your
project timeline to achieve this goal. Separate project plans should then be developed for
each program element.
In order to work towards becoming a group 3 council:
• decide which program elements you will be implementing and their priorities in
consultation with your corporate and operational working parties
• develop an overall project plan to implement these program elements (identify the need
for ongoing budget and resource commitment over the life of the project)
• develop project plans for each program element
• make a copy of the ten tips for success (appendix A) and place it prominently in your
work area and refer to it regularly
• establish contact with your peers in other councils who are developing and
implementing other programs. Write into your project plan an allowance for spending
some time with those peers
• start work.
The journey from group 2 to group 3 is probably the most challenging in developing
a long-term program to improve environmental aspects of council operations. By
developing and implementing project plans and maintaining your own energy, focus and
commitment, you are now building the framework for what will be an effective long-term
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A resource guide for local councils:
environmental management of council operations
Standard operating procedures
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are an excellent way of developing consistency
and staff understanding as to the requirements, training and responsibility of all staff
members associated with an activity. The purpose of SOPs is to ensure that works are
carried out:
• in an effective manner to achieve maximum productivity and quality
• to a standard that ensures the safety of the staff and residents within the work area
• to minimise pollution and to meet the requirements of the POEO Act.
Sample operating procedures
A series of sample standard operating procedures for key areas of activity for councils are
presented in appendix C. They are:
• road construction and maintenance
• parks and gardens
• depots
• golf courses
• swimming pools
• waste collection and management.
Developing SOPs tailored to your council is a cross-council function. The process
requires the support and input from the general manager, directors, OH&S offi cers,
training offi cer, line managers, team leaders and all operational staff.
It’s not however just a matter of developing the SOPs and handing them over to the
operational personnel. The process of development needs to encourage ownership. A
training component to introduce the SOPs to all council personnel could also be written
into project plans.
Before getting your SOP development program underway, some key issues that need
attention include:
• resources

who is going to lead this project?

who is going to be ultimately responsible for the ongoing maintenance and review of
the SOPs?

who is going to sit on a committee to review and amend the SOPs to maintain
• document

how are all the SOPs going to be controlled in relation to version, and electronic
storage and access?

how do you ensure that everyone has the latest version of the SOPs?
• maintenance

what maintenance is going to be carried out and by whom?

what review process will be in place?

who will have authority to remove or develop new SOPs?
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These matters should be discussed with the operational and corporate working parties.
Once they have been resolved it will be time to develop SOPs across the council. A
staged approach to developing SOPs may be needed, focusing initially on activities with