Covering the period 16 July 2000 to 30 June 2001
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4770 X
1. Protecting the environment
The Act increases protection of the environment from environmentally significant actions on, or affecting, Commonwealth land, and environmentally significant Commonwealth actions. Here again, the Act focuses on actions such as development proposals rather than approval and funding decisions, as was the case with the former environment assessment legislation.
Following initial screening, 16 actions were further scrutinised by the Department to determine whether they were likely to trigger the controlling provision in the Act relating to Commonwealth land. It was decided that seven were controlled actions. One of these, Rutile and Zircon mining on Stockton Rifle Range (Mineral Deposits (Operations) Pty Ltd) in New South Wales, has been approved. This action and one other (275kV and 132 kV transmission line from Ross Substation to Townsville South Substation (Powerlink Queensland) in Queensland) did not trigger the provisions in the Act relating to matters of national environmental significance, whereas the other five controlled actions also triggered at least one matter, and are consequently included in the count of 71 controlled actions referred to in Part 1.1 of this report. This means that 73 controlled actions in total were decided in the reporting period.
Twenty-one actions by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth agency were referred to the Department. Only one action triggered the Act. This action is the proposal by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources for a National Low Level Radioactive Waste Repository in central-north South Australia, which was undergoing assessment through an environmental impact statement as of 30 June 2001.
Section 160 of the Act requires Commonwealth agencies or employees of the Commonwealth, before authorising certain actions, to obtain and consider advice from the Minister, where those actions are likely to have a significant impact on the environment. These actions include foreign aid projects, managing aircraft operations in airspace, adopting or implementing airport development plans and other actions prescribed in the Regulations. During 2000-01, three projects were referred to the Minister under Section 160. Environmental assessments were completed for two of those actions and advice was provided to the relevant Commonwealth agency.
A summary of the status of actions referred to the Minister for advice under section 160 is in Appendix 1. The projects included the Melbourne Airport Terminal Expansion Major Development Plan (Australia Pacific Airports (Melbourne) Pty Ltd), the extension of the Common User Terminal at Coolangatta Airport (Gold Coast Airport Limited), and a South Pacific overseas aid project (AusAID).