Appendix C—Ecologically Sustainable Development and Environmental Performance

The following summary of the Department's environmental management activities and performance is provided in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which requires entities to report on:

  • how their activities accord with, and their outcomes contribute to, the principles of ecologically sustainable development, and
  • the environmental impacts of their operations during the year and measures taken to minimise those impacts.

The Department undertakes all its activities, from corporate initiatives to departmental policies, programmes and procedures, in accordance with the five principles (integration, precaution, intergeneration, biodiversity and valuation) set out in the Act.

Ecologically Sustainable Development

The goal of ecologically sustainable development is to maintain ecological processes while improving quality of life; in the short and long terms.

Ecologically sustainable development was integral to the Department's four outcomes and to the Department's work throughout 2014–15.

Under the Infrastructure Investment Programme, the Department worked in partnership with state and territory transport agencies to ensure environmental issues were appropriately considered in identifying, designing and delivering infrastructure projects. Proponents were required to consider environmental, congestion, safety and amenity issues, as well as economic, market and infrastructure issues.

The Department continued to implement programmes which support the sustainability of Australia's regions. This included ongoing support for projects that construct and install sustainable infrastructure including the use of current ecologically sustainable technology.

In the Torres Strait, a project to provide a sustainable coastal protection system for vulnerable Torres Strait Island communities was undertaken. The project aimed to protect against the impact of coastal erosion and tidal inundation, reducing the likelihood of damage to community infrastructure and enhancing community and environmental health.

A hydrowood project was undertaken in Tasmania, to purchase and install a harvesting system and support infrastructure to enable underwater harvesting of timber from Hydro Tasmania dam impoundments. The project enables underwater harvesting of timber resources which will make use of an otherwise wasted resource to develop products such as flooring, veneer, craft wood as well as lumber.

In Esperance, the construction and installation of sustainable infrastructure commenced including lighting, irrigation, a water management system, and waste and recycling management using renewable energy generation. The completed project will include solar powered lights at picnic shelters and in public open spaces, solar hot water systems for beach showers, solar compacting rubbish and recycling bins, and a Rainman irrigation system.

The Department played a key role in protecting the marine environment for future generations from the impacts of international shipping through its ongoing work at the International Maritime Organization's Marine Environment Protection Committee. Most significantly, the Australian Government's proposed extension of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, which will help protect the South West Coral Sea by keeping ships away from the many reefs, cays, islets, sandbars and shoal patches in the area, was agreed by the Marine Environment Protection Committee.

The Department continued to work collaboratively with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to help develop international standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. The Department and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority also continued to work with the International Maritime Organization to set standards to prevent other forms of pollution from international shipping, including oil pollution, garbage and sewage, and to ensure these standards are implemented into Australia's domestic legislative framework.

The Department also administered the annual Australian contribution to the International Maritime Organization and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

The Department has worked with other departments to develop the Energy White Paper, the G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the ‘Setting Australia's post-2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions’ issues paper.

Significant progress was made on the redevelopment of the Green Vehicle Guide website The guide compares the environmental performance of light vehicles, including information on fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and air pollutant emissions.  It enables consumers to better estimate their annual fuel consumption and vehicle emissions and make informed decisions about their personal impacts on the environment.

The Department played an active role in the International Civil Aviation Organization on global strategies to address the impact of aviation on the environment.

The Department assessed the environmental, social and economic impacts of all airport master plans, major development plans and airport environment strategies which airport lessee companies were required to prepare and submit for approval under the Airports Act 1996. The Department advised the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Hon Warren Truss MP, on the extent to which these documents met the requirements of legislation, including assessments of environmental impacts and plans for dealing with them.

The Australian Government purchased land at Badgerys Creek in the 1980s and 1990s in preparation for a decision on the location of a future airport.  The administered programme, Sydney West Airport—rental properties, pays for water and land rates, maintenance and other costs associated with renting out the properties on this land.  The Department developed and began implementing a tenancy transition plan to ensure the site could be vacated and prepared for the development of an airport.

As residential tenants have vacated the site, buildings and structures have been demolished and services disconnected to reduce health and safety risks.  Activities on site have included the appropriate management of asbestos containing material and waste.

The Australian Government is conducting a robust and rigorous environmental assessment for the proposed western Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. The Environmental Impact Statement will consider a range of factors, including the environmental, social and economic aspects of developing and operating an airport in the area.  Mitigation measures to minimise and manage the impacts of the proposed airport will also be considered in the environmental assessment. Community consultation on the draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected later in 2015. After taking the community's comments into account, the Environmental Impact Statement will be finalised.

The Department was responsible for infrastructure delivery in the Indian Ocean Territories and Jervis Bay Territory. Each infrastructure project was assessed against the requirements under the Act at the project approval stage. Environmental management plans were established at the construction phase and implemented during project delivery. All project design and delivery work took into account sustainability principles and whole-of-life impacts.

The Department had access to the Department of Defence's infrastructure and environment and heritage panels. This helped the Department plan for projects, develop request for tender documentation, incorporate environmental requirements into contractual arrangements and obtain environmental approvals.

On Norfolk Island, all historical area works aligned with ecological sustainable requirements. Waste management issues continued to be an issue for the island and have provided a unique subject for a graduate learning group project (to be undertaken in the first half of 2015–16) and could make a significant contribution to the transformation of current unsustainable waste management practices.

Office Energy Use

The Department is committed to implementing ecologically sustainable principles in its operations and limits the consumption of office energy and other resources wherever practical.

The Department's environmental management system complies with ISO14001:2004, the international standard for environmental management systems. The system is focused on the Department's office-based activities in Canberra. Initiatives are applied at territory and state premises where appropriate.

All central office locations use automated lighting controls to switch non-essential lighting off outside of work hours and deploy technology to minimise water usage. The Department implements a number of initiatives to provide effective waste management and to monitor and maintain indoor environment quality in our major offices.

Over the past three years, the Department has been progressively implementing a strategy to reduce our carbon footprint from our use of motor vehicles and today over 90 per cent of our operational vehicle fleet is comprised of hybrid technology vehicles.

No breaches of environmental laws or licenses by the Department were reported during 2014–15.

Due to a difference between reporting timeframes for the energy use data and the Department's Annual Report, energy consumption data for 2014–15 will be provided in the Annual Report for 2015–16. Data for 2012–13 and 2013–14 is in Table C.1.

Table C.1  Trends in departmental energy consumption, 2012–13 to 2013–14

Buildings and electricity
Office buildings
Area occupied (m2) 36,875 43,119
Occupantsa 965 1,312
Area per person (m2) 38.2 32.9
Electricity used (GJ) 12,290 14,393
Electricity used per person (MJ)c 12,736 11,285
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 333 334
Electricity sourced from renewable sources (%) 5.62 4.53
Other buildings
Area occupied (m2) 1,250 453
Electricity used (GJ)b 386 412
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 308 909
Total of the above
Direct energy consumed (GJ) 12,676 14,805
Greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents) 4,144 4,334

 a Occupants may include contractors and employees of contracted service providers as well as departmental   employees.
 b Includes green power.
 c The Australian Government's energy consumption target is no more than 7,500 megajoules per person per year.

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Last Updated: 7 December, 2015