Upper Spencer Gulf Regional Sustainability Planning

The Australian Government is working collaboratively with state and local governments to identify and fund critical research projects and support local government capacity for regional sustainability planning.

Sustainable Regional Development program

The Australian Government has invested $29.2 million into the Sustainable Regional Development program to secure a sustainable future for Australia's high growth areas. The challenge is to help regional centres achieve their economic and social potential while safeguarding their environmental assets. The Upper Spencer Gulf region in South Australia is one of several areas selected for this program. Other areas already benefitting from the program are the Lower Hunter region, NSW, Perth and Peel regions in Western Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.

About the Upper Spencer Gulf region

The Upper Spencer Gulf is made up of several jurisdictions. For the purpose of the Sustainable Regional Development program, the Upper Spencer Gulf is functionally defined as the three main cities of Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie, together with their socio-economic hinterlands where there is a direct benefit or impact on these cities. The region acts as a development hub to service South Australian industrial growth. It is expected that demand for industry services in the region, including labour, engineering and equipment servicing and supplies, will increase substantially over coming years in response to mining growth in the hinterland.

There are several matters of national environmental significance (MNES) in the Upper Spencer Gulf, including marine and terrestrial endangered species, communities and habitats. Significant environmental assets in the region include coastal saltmarsh communities, seagrass meadows, peppermint box (Eucalyptus odorata) grassy woodland, as well as habitat for the endangered sandhill dunnart (Sminthopsis psammophila) and pygmy blue tongue (Tiliqua adelaidensis). The Spencer Gulf is also the site of the largest breeding aggregation in Australia of the giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama).

What does regional sustainability planning in the Upper Spencer Gulf involve?

Regional sustainability planning is a collaborative process involving all levels of government working together to foster liveable communities, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. In the Upper Spencer Gulf, this has included research and a grant to local government to build capacity with communities for sustainability planning of the region.

What is the scope of regional sustainability planning in the Upper Spencer Gulf?

Regional sustainability planning in the Upper Spencer Gulf aims to promote and inform environmental, social and economic sustainability within the region. It incorporates industrial development areas and associated infrastructure corridors with a focus on matters of national environmental significance protected under the EPBC Act and other priority environmental values for the region.

What are the Australian Government's funds used for?

Funding has been made available through the Sustainable Regional Development program to undertake research and collect data to inform regional sustainability planning in the Upper Spencer Gulf region (see research projects below).

A grant of $400,000 has been provided to the Central Local Government Region of South Australia to assist with regional sustainability planning for the future. The Central Local Government Region is using the grant to compile and evaluate data and information on renewable energy options, climate change and hazard vulnerability and biodiversity and/or cultural heritage issues that may be impacted by proposed or anticipated development in the area. The outcomes of these will be used to inform future revisions of local government planning provisions for the region.

Research projects

Two research projects have been funded to address key information gaps in the Upper Spencer Gulf region. A brief description and the final reports from these research projects are provided below.

Investigating potential impacts of shipping on giant Australian cuttlefish

This project investigated potential impacts of increased shipping on the giant Australian cuttlefish - a species of conservation concern due to its significant decline in the Upper Spencer Gulf in recent years.

The contract for this project was awarded to Adelaide Research and Innovation Pty Ltd and was completed in April 2014. The final report for this project is provided below.

Identifying conservation priorities and evaluating scenarios of cumulative impacts of mining infrastructure in the Upper Spencer Gulf Region in South Australia

This project assessed the impact of alternative future mining infrastructure scenarios on matters of national environmental significance and other priority environmental values in the USG region. Firstly, the habitat suitability and distribution of a wide array of MNES and state listed species was mapped. The high conservation priority areas in the USG region were then identified including descriptions of how they are currently protected under legislation. This was followed by an assessment of how the high conservation value areas are likely to be affected under different development scenarios. For each development scenario, the overlap of high conservation area and areas proposed for development are reported and the expected loss of biodiversity and which biodiversity features will be most affected is estimated.

The contract for this project was awarded to the Environmental Decisions Hub of the National Environmental Research Program. The final report for this project is provided below.

Next Steps

The Department is working with the Central Local Government Region of South Australia to conclude the final products of the local government grant by June 2015.

How to contact us

The regional sustainability planning section is positioned within the Environment Assessment and Compliance Division of the Australian Department of the Environment. For more information contact:

Regional Sustainability Planning
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Email: rsp@environment.gov.au