Key assessments

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North Maclean Industrial Development, QLD

The North Maclean Industrial Area development is part of the Greater Flagstone Priority Development Area, which is a satellite city for Brisbane, expected to absorb around 120 000 residents.

The development will involve clearing a 120 hectare site at 4499-4651 Mount Lindesay Highway. The northern portion of the site consists of dry sclerophyll forest while the southern portion is mostly pasture with scattered trees.

A delegate of the federal Minister for the Environment carefully considered the advice of the Department and all public comments received, before deciding whether this proposal could go ahead. On 10 February 2016 the delegate provided conditional approval for the North Maclean Industrial Area development under national environmental law.

Conditions to protect the environment

Surveys have confirmed that koalas are present at the site and the dry sclerophyll forest on-site provides foraging habitat for the grey-headed flying fox and the swift parrot.

The approval under national environmental law includes 12 conditions that will protect nationally listed species, including:

  • Limits on the amount of clearing that can occur as part of the action (condition 1).
  • Protection of native vegetation through biodiversity offsets to compensate for the impact of the action on koalas and other species (conditions 2 and 3). The development cannot commence until an offset strategy providing appropriate commitments is approved by the Environment Minister or a delegate.
  • A condition to ensure the welfare of native animals that are present at the site (condition 4).
  • Measures to ensure there are no impacts to swamp tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) (conditions 5 and 6).
  • Administrative conditions, including requirements for publication of an approved offset strategy (condition 12) and compliance reports (condition 9).

Department of the Environment compliance and enforcement officers will closely monitor operation of the development to ensure the conditions of approval are met.

Spot-tail quolls

The local community have expressed significant concerns around the potential impacts of the development on the endangered spot-tailed quoll. The Department has taken these concerns seriously and conducted an exhaustive assessment of the potential impacts on the species. There is no indication of quolls at the project site and the site does not contain dens that are required for the survival of the species.

Community advocates, including the Logan and Albert Conservation Association, provided useful information throughout the assessment process, including the results of surveys and documentation of quoll sightings within about 10 kilometres of, though not at, the action area. Reports of sightings closest to the project site include:

  • a live sighting reported in 2003 on a property to the north of Crowson Lane which forms the northern border of the site
  • one dead quoll at the corner of Greenhill Rd and Crowson Lane to the north of the site during winter 2004
  • a live sighting reported in 2005 on the other side of the Mount Lindsay highway and to the east of the site.

Much of this information is summarised in the 2015 report Looking out for Quolls in Logan. This report summarises comprehensive surveys conducted in the broader area, though not at the proposed action area, and demonstrates that there is a population of quolls in the Logan City council area.

As a result of the concerns raised during the public consultation period, the proponent conducted targeted quoll surveys at the proposed action area and submitted this information to the Department in August 2015. This survey included camera detection and hair tube sampling.  No evidence of spot-tailed quolls was found at the site.

The site was also surveyed for habitat that is critical to the survival of the quoll. Quolls rely on suitable den sites such as log/tree hollows and small caves.  Because the site was cleared of timber in the mid 1900s, few of these habitat features are present at the site, and in addition the site does not contain caves that could be used as dens.

After careful consideration of all information, and noting particularly the absence of suitable dens at the action site, the delegate determined that no conditions are required to protect the spot-tailed quoll.

Levels of government

The three levels of Australian government play different roles in making decisions about projects. The role of the Australian government is to make decisions on nationally protected matters, such as threatened species and ecological communities. State governments have a broader role and make decisions on a wider range of environmental issues and land use planning.

The Australian government’s legal powers under national environmental law are limited to the assessment of matters of national environmental significance. For this project these are threatened species and ecological communities.

The decision to allow the development of an industrial site in the area is a planning matter for state and local government.

Public comment periods

On 22 July 2013, the proposed action was referred to the Department and public comments were invited until 6 August 2013.

The draft preliminary documentation prepared by Wearco Pty Ltd (the proponent) was provided to the department on 17 December 2014 and was available for public comment between 23 February and 9 March 2015. Concerns raised included: impacts to listed threatened species and habitat, environmental surveys, proposed offsets, industrial development being located in a rural residential area and lack of adequate community consultation.

On 20 May 2015, the Department agreed to accept comments outside the public comment period and has taken into consideration further comments received during the assessment.

Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, QLD

The Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project is an open-cut and underground coal mine located approximately 300 kilometres inland in remote central Queensland.

The project has been approved under national environment law subject to 36 strict conditions.

Departmental statement - 9 November 2015

In developing advice to inform the Minister's decision in October 2015 to approve the Adani Mining Pty Ltd's Carmichael mine, the Department conducted one of the most comprehensive considerations of a proponent's environmental history ever undertaken under the EPBC Act.

As part of its consideration, the Department sought relevant information from Adani Mining Pty Ltd and its three parent companies about environmental history over the last 10 years.

The scope of this request went well beyond what is required under the EPBC Act for a decision process, and reflects the robust approach that has been applied to this process.

The Department has received claims from an NGO about the environmental history of a company operating in another country, which has employed a now current executive of Adani Mining Pty Ltd. The Department is seeking clarification from Adani Mining Pty Ltd about this matter.

The Department's provisional advice is that this new information would not materially affect the validity of the approval decision, and that the 36 strict conditions imposed will fully protect matters of national environmental significance.

The Department is ensuring that these conditions are implemented, monitored and enforced in a transparent and robust manner.

Assessment details

The project was determined a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) on 6 January 2011 for likely significant impacts on world and national heritage, wetlands of international importance, listed threatened species and ecological communities, listed migratory species and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (EPBC referral 2010/5736).

Following amendments to the EPBC Act on 24 October 2013, the Minister included the protection of water resources from a large coal mining development as a controlling provision for the project.

The project was assessed by Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the bilateral agreement with the Queensland Government.

Public comment periods

The draft EIS for the proposed action was made available for public comment between 15 December 2012 and 11 February 2013. On 26 March 2013, the Queensland Coordinator-General requested that the proponent submit additional information to address the issues raised in the EIS. The additional information to the EIS was made available for public comment from 25 November 2013 to 20 December 2013.

Watermark Coal Project, NSW

The Watermark Coal Project is a new open cut coal mine proposed by Shenhua Watermark Coal Pty Ltd (Shenhua),located approximately 25 km south-east of Gunnedah, New South Wales (NSW).

Assessment details

The project was determined a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) on 22 December 2011 for likely significant impacts on migratory species and nationally threatened species and communities (EPBC referral 2011/6201).

The project was assessed through the accredited NSW Environmental Impact Assessment process under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act), which was coordinated by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE).

Following amendments to the EPBC Act on 24 October 2013, the Minister decided the protection of water resources from large coal mining development would also be a controlling provision for the project.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Shenhua as part of the NSW assessment process was on public exhibition for a period of two months from 28 February 2013. Public submissions received on the draft Environmental Impact Statement were wide ranging and included comments regarding: impacts on water resources (groundwater and surface water); aboriginal heritage; socio-economic concerns; agricultural land; air quality; and biodiversity (amongst other matters). On 28 January 2015, NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) approved the project and the NSW Determination Report was published, triggering the period for final consideration under national environmental law​.

Matters of National Environmental Significance – listed threatened species and ecological communities and migratory species

The Environmental Impact Statement included an assessment of potential ecological impacts, which included  the critically endangered White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland (Box Gum Woodland) ecological community; and the endangered Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands of South-eastern Australia (Grey Box Woodland) ecological community. These communities provide potential habitat for several EPBC-listed species including (but not limited to): the Regent Honeyeater, Spotted-tail Quoll, and the South-eastern Long-eared Bat.

Although the project area supports known koala habitat, this species was not listed under the EPBC Act when the project was determined a controlled action and hence cannot be considered as part of the approval process under national environmental law. The koala was, however, listed as a NSW threatened species at the time the project was submitted, and has been assessed accordingly under NSW environmental law.

Matters of National Environmental Significance – water resources

Advice on the proposed action from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (the IESC) was requested on 12 March 2013, which was subsequently withdrawn and superseded by a request to the IESC on 17 April 2013 to ensure the IESC was able to fully reflect the Government's intention to amend the EPBC Act to provide greater protection for water resources impacted by coal seam gas and large coal mining developments. The IESC provided advice on the potential impacts to water resources as a result of the project in May 2013, which meets the requirement under the EPBC Act.

The IESC advice covered a range of issues, including impacts to groundwater and surface water, the adequacy of the groundwater model, the ongoing monitoring of groundwater and surface water resources, and cumulative impacts. Further information on these reviews can be obtained from the PAC website.

Given the additional studies and reviews of the groundwater model since the IESC provided advice on this project (in May 2013), on 26 February 2015 and 23 March 2015 the Commonwealth Environment Minister sought further independent advice from the IESC to consider the potential impacts in relation to water resources.

Request and advice documents

The additional advice on the Watermark Coal Project requested from the IESC was provided to the Minister on 27 April 2015.

Approval under the EPBC Act

The Minister carefully considered the NSW assessment, the advice of the IESC, the advice of the Department and all public comments received before deciding whether this proposal could go ahead. On 4 July 2015, the Minister approved the Watermark Coal Project with 18 strict environmental conditions to protect water resources and listed threatened species and ecological communities.

Statement of Reasons

On 21 August 2015, the Minister released a Statement of Reasons for the approval decision.

Referenced documents

This table contains links to documents which are referenced in the footnotes section of the Watermark Coal Project Statement of Reasons, where available.

Footnote number
from SOR
Document
3 Environmental Impact Statement
4, 27 Response to submissions
5, 6, 55, 56 NSW Assessment Report and NSW Addendum to Assessment Report
7, 21, 22, 23, 24 NSW Conditions of consent
8 NSW Planning Assessment Commission review report
9 NSW Planning Assessment Commission determination
10 Request for IESC advice 12 March 2013
Request for IESC advice 17 April 2013
11 IESC 2013 advice
12 Request for IESC advice 26 February 2015
14 Request for IESC advice 23 March 2015
15, 52, 54 IESC 2015 advice
34 Species Profile and Threats Database record for Box Gum Woodland
25, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 57 Approval Decision Notice

Links to further information

Proposed Western Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek, NSW

The Department received a referral for the proposed Western Sydney airport on 4 December 2014. The proposed action is to construct and operate a Western Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek, New South Wales.

Referral details

The proponent, the federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, has advised that development of the proposed airport would be staged in response to demand. The first stage, expected to be operational from mid-2020s, will operate from one runway. The proposed airport would grow to meet demand.

Ultimately, the airport layout would potentially comprise two parallel runways of up to 4,000 metres in length, on a north-east/south-west alignment, with supporting airside and landside facilities capable of handling up to 70 million passenger movements per year. It is proposed that the airport be operational 24 hours per day.

Following a public consultation period and careful consideration of all relevant matters, it was determined the proposed action may have a significant impact on World Heritage properties, National Heritage places, listed threatened species and communities. As the proposal is a Commonwealth action, the whole of the environment is a nationally protected matter. Accordingly, the proposal was determined to be a controlled action on 23 December 2014 to be assessed through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The guidelines for the content of the EIS are available on the Referral detail page.

The preparation of the EIS, and the timing for this, is the responsibility of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Assessment details

Following a direction to publish the draft EIS from the Minister for the Environment, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development released the draft EIS and the draft Airport Plan on Monday 19 October. The publication notice is available on the Referral detail page.

The community may now make a submission and have their say on the development of the proposed Western Sydney Airport. The public exhibition period closes on Friday 18 December 2015.

Further information on the draft EIS, draft Airport Plan and information on how to make a submission to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development are available at http://westernsydneyairport.gov.au

The environmental impact assessment process under Australia's national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), is rigorous and transparent, and provides opportunities for public comment. All public comments received during the public consultation phase of the assessment process will be taken into account.

Under recent amendments to the Airports Act 1996, the Minister for Infrastructure will be the final decision maker for the proposal, deciding whether or not to approve the proposal through an Airport Plan for the Western Sydney Airport. The Airport Plan will provide a single environment and development approval for the project.

The Minister for Infrastructure’s decision on whether or not to approve the proposal will be subject to the Minister for the Environment’s consideration of the Airport Plan and the final EIS, and, if required, any conditions or provisions to protect the environment that the Minister for Environment deems necessary.

Notifications of decisions under the EPBC Act, and invitations to comment on proposals are published on the Department's website.

Provisions to be covered by the Environmental Impact Statement

Commonwealth action (the environment)

As the proposal is a Commonwealth action, the whole of the environment, as defined in the EPBC Act, is a nationally protected matter.

Listed threatened species and communities

Listed threatened species and ecological communities are recognised as a matter of national environmental significance. Impacts on listed threatened species and ecological communities under the EPBC Act will be considered during the assessment of the proposal.

World Heritage properties and National Heritage places

The proponent identified the Greater Blue Mountains Area World Heritage property and National Heritage place as being potentially impacted by the proposal. The referral stated that a significant impact to the heritage values of the place was unlikely due to improvements in aircraft technology and improved regulatory standards for noise and emissions.

A significant impact to World and National Heritage values would be considered likely if the proposed action will cause the loss, degradation, modification or diminishment of one or more World or National Heritage values.

It is not clear that the action currently proposed will have a significant impact on the values or integrity of the Greater Blue Mountains Area. The precautionary triggering of World and National Heritage as controlling provisions will ensure these potential impacts are thoroughly assessed.

In line with standard practice the current proposal will be included in the Department's next quarterly statement notifying the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of any proposals being assessed under the EPBC Act that trigger for World Heritage.

Links to further information

Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project, QLD

The Abbot Growth Gateway Project is a proposal from the Queensland Department of State Development (the proponent) to undertake capital dredging, onshore placement and reuse of dredged material at Abbot Point, 25 km north of Bowen, North Queensland (EPBC 2015/7467).

Approval under the EPBC Act

On 21 December 2015, the Minister for the Environment approved the Abbot Point Growth Gateway project with 29 strict environmental conditions.

Further information on the approval including the full set of conditions, a fact sheet, frequently asked questions, statement of the Minister’s reasons for making the decision and the Department’s recommendation report to the Minister are available at the links below:

The proposal is for capital dredging of approximately 1.1 million cubic metres to support the development of the Abbot Point Terminal 0. Dredged material will be managed onshore in containment areas located on industrial land, for future beneficial reuse within the Abbot Point State Development Area. The proposal avoids the requirement for dredge disposal on the Caley Valley Wetlands or within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

On 14 May 2015, the Minister determined the project was a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) for likely significant impacts on World Heritage properties; National Heritage places; listed threatened species and communities; listed migratory species; Commonwealth marine areas; and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The project was assessed by Environmental Impact Statement under the EPBC Act. The environmental impact assessment process under the EPBC Act is rigorous and transparent.

The draft environmental impact statement prepared by Queensland Department of State Development was published from 21 August 2015 to 18 September 2015.

On 26 October 2015, the Queensland Department of State Development submitted the final Environmental Impact Statement addressing all relevant concerns raised through the public consultation process, triggering the period for final consideration under national environmental law.

Links to further information