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Chapter 9 - Environmental performance

Heritage management

Defence began to revise the Defence Heritage Strategy and continued to develop and implement plans to support the management of heritage values on the Defence estate, including at Gallipoli Barracks, Brisbane. In April 2013, new interpretation signs were installed at Garden Island, Sydney to inform visitors and Defence personnel about the history of the buildings there.

Defence environmental management system

A major review of the design and functionality of the Defence Environmental Management System was conducted during 2012-13. Work is continuing to standardise its architecture across the Defence estate, to integrate the system across Defence, and to align it with the garrison and estate management ICT platform.

DMO environmental performance

Environmental management controls and procedures form part of the DMO's acquisition, sustainment and disposal processes to identify and manage potential environmental impacts and related risks of materiel introduced to the ADF. Identification of these risks at the earliest possible stage in the materiel lifecycle reduces the likelihood for costly mitigation strategies to address environmental impacts of provided materiel that could affect capability. The processes in place assist projects to 'design out' environmentally damaging features and to acquire, sustain and dispose of materiel with fewer negative effects on the environment.

The DMO's achievements in environmental management during the year include:

  • implementing the corporate-level Environmental Management Plan so as to record and manage environmental risk, resulting in more efficient and effective management and reporting processes
  • conducting a review of policy, procedures and guidance in support of both Defence and DMO corporate environmental management
  • providing support to the Defence Environmental Strategic Plan 2010-2014 through continued commitment to the Defence Environmental Management Forum
  • making an ongoing contribution to the Defence Industry Environmental Sustainability Forum.

Defence referrals under the EPBC Act

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), Commonwealth agencies are required to refer any action that is likely to have a significant impact on the environment. In 2012-13, Defence referred one action for formal consideration under the EPBC Act, as shown in Table 9.1.

Table 9.1 - Defence actions referred under the EPBC Act, 2012-13

Table 9.1 - Defence actions referred under the EPBC Act, 2012-13
Defence action EPBC referral number Date referred Status
Moorebank Units Relocation Project, Holsworthy Training Area, NSW 2012/6462 12 July 2012 Decision made on 9 August 2012 that further assessment and approval is not required provided the action is undertaken in the specified manner.

There were four Defence actions subject to continuing assessment under the EPBC Act during the year, as shown in Table 9.2.

Table 9.2 - Defence actions subject to assessment under the EPBC Act

Table 9.2 - Defence actions subject to assessment under the EPBC Act
Defence action EPBC referral number Status
Removal of Bellman hangars at RAAF Williams (Point Cook) due to structural deterioration 2008/4251 The action is being assessed through a preliminary documentationprocess.
Defence is preparing a preliminary documentation report.
Expansion of the Cultana Training Area, SA 2010/5316 The action is being assessed through a public environment report process.
Defence has submitted its final report to the Minister for the Environment for an approval decision.
Flying Operations of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at RAAF Bases Williamtown and Tindal and the Salt Ash Air Weapons Range 2010/5747 The action is being assessed through an environmental impact statement process.
Defence is preparing the environmental impact statement to address the published guidelines.
Removal of the Hammerhead crane from Garden Island, Sydney, NSW 2012/6430 The action was assessed through a preliminary documentation process.

Incident reporting

Defence maintained its incident reporting processes under the Defence Environmental Management System, which supports continual improvement for environmental performance. In 2012-13, there were 477 incidents reported across the estate. None of them was considered to have had a significant impact on the environment.

This section reports on Defence's environmental performance and its contribution to ecologically sustainable development under section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Defence conducts a program of environmental impact assessment to ensure that the environmental risks of Defence activities are properly considered and managed. The level of environmental risk posed by an activity determines the level of assessment.

Many Defence activities pose only a low risk to the environment and are managed through existing Defence management protocols such as standard operating procedures, standing orders and environmental and heritage management plans. Types of activities that are considered a low environmental risk include routine and small-scale military training activities, minor construction works, building refurbishments and the use of some new or upgraded military equipment.

Defence activities that are considered to have medium environmental risks are assessed and managed through Defence's Environmental Clearance Certificate process. A certificate is also required for activities where no extant policies or procedures exist to ensure appropriate environmental mitigation strategies and/or management plans are in place.

Higher environmental risk Defence activities may include large-scale training exercises, major infrastructure works, and the introduction of major equipment or activities in environmentally sensitive locations. These activities receive comprehensive environmental impact assessment, including advice from professional environmental consultants. Each year, a relatively small number of Defence activities are assessed as exceeding the significant impact guidelines published under the EPBC Act. These activities are referred to the Minister for the Environment for formal consideration under the Act.

Land management and biodiversity conservation

Defence continued to develop site-based land management-related plans across the estate. These included sustainability monitoring and reporting plans, biodiversity-related plans and overabundant-species plans. Defence completed development of an estate-wide strategy for managing airfield wildlife hazards.

Interaction with marine and aquatic environments

Defence activities in the marine environment were undertaken in accordance with the ADF Maritime Activities Environmental Management Plan. The plan guides the full range of activities Defence is likely to undertake in the marine environment, and mitigates potential risks to marine fauna, including noise disturbance, entanglement, habitat degradation and collision.

The plan identifies limits on the scale of activities and, when activities exceeded those limits, additional management was applied through development of an Environmental Clearance Certificate. This process includes an assessment as to whether the activity needs to be referred to the Minister for the Environment for consideration under the EPBC Act.

Climate change

Defence supports the Government's agenda on climate change through the implementation of resource efficiency strategies and awareness-raising initiatives. Defence is also undertaking a study to determine mitigation and adaptation strategies to minimise the impact of climate change-induced sea-level rise, storm surges and coastal erosion at selected Defence sites across Australia.

Defence continued its participation in Earth Hour 2013; many Defence bases across Australia switched off non-essential lights and other electrical equipment in facilities where possible.

Around 80 Australian and international delegates attended the Pacific Environmental Security Forum in Sydney to consider impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise and the role of the military in natural disaster management. The forum was co-hosted with the United States Pacific Command.

Energy management

Defence continued to report energy consumption in accordance with the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy. Defence has also continued with the installation of electricity sub-meters, which will improve its capacity to monitor and report energy consumption. As part of the Defence Energy Strategy, Defence regions have in place energy action plans which identify short-, medium- and long-term actions to reduce energy demand and improve energy efficiency.

Defence continued to implement measures and initiatives to improve resource efficiency and minimise its carbon emissions. These initiatives included lighting retrofit projects and installation of solar photo voltaic systems on Defence bases where appropriate. Defence infrastructure projects continued to incorporate energy-efficient designs, fittings and equipment and the use of renewable energy sources such as solar hot water systems. In remote locations, solar hybrid power systems were installed where appropriate.

Water and waste management

Defence continues to implement water efficiency initiatives across the estate, including leak detection, upgrades to irrigation systems, replacement of fixtures with water-efficient devices, rainwater harvesting and reuse, and the development of water management and landscape management plans.

Defence continued to meet its reporting requirements under the Australian Packaging Covenant by reporting waste diverted from landfill and recycling rates at key sites.

Pollution prevention and contaminated sites management

Defence uses a number of hazardous substances that may have the potential to pollute the environment. Defence has continued to develop policy and guidelines, through the Defence pollution prevention program, to assist in preventing pollution particularly where hazardous substances are being used.

The Defence national contamination remediation program began in 2003. In 2012, the program was renamed the Defence environmental remediation programs to reflect the incorporation of the unexploded ordnance program and the evolving major projects program relating to contamination remediation. The focus is on managing and remediating sites using a risk-based approach where historic use by Defence may have left a legacy of contamination.

In the past year Defence began the remediation of the former fire training area at RAAF Base Williams, Point Cook, Victoria. The project to remediate the area will reduce the potential risks to human health and environment, particularly the potential impacts on Port Phillip Bay.

Defence engaged with the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment to improve understanding about remediation options for contamination associated with lead in soil as well as from the chemical compounds associated with fire-fighting foam.

A historical review project began into the transportation, use, storage and disposal of chemical munitions during and after World War Two to identify any potential risks associated with these munitions.

National environment protection measures

Defence continued to contribute to the Government's implementation and the effectiveness of the National Environment Protection Measures. Defence continued to report under the National Pollutant Inventory.

Ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases

Under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989, Defence holds five licences and one formal exemption. The Defence Ozone Depleting Substances and Synthetic Greenhouse Gases Manual and DI(G) LOG 4-3-022 establishes policy and offers guidance to Defence managers of platforms and equipment that are charged with fire-extinguishing agents and refrigerant gases, as well as bulk holdings and imports. Defence continued to work closely with the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the Fire Protection Association of Australia to mature its risk management processes and support the implementation of the manual.

Strategic partnerships

During 2012-13 Defence continued to establish and maintain strategic partnerships with universities, local community groups, key stakeholders, local governments and non-government organisations. Details of Defence's key partnerships and arrangements can be found online.

Environmental impact assessment

Environmental impact assessment ensures that Defence considers the potential environmental impacts when deciding whether to proceed with a project. Defence undertakes a number of environmental impact assessments to ensure that the range of environmental risks associated with Defence actions and activities are appropriately considered and managed. The types of environmental risks and hazards that are likely to be present will determine the level of complexity of the environmental impact assessment.

Defence has a number of internal management tools that assist in the management of the environment. One example includes an internal environmental impact approval process involving an environmental clearance certificate for actions or activities that are unlikely to have a significant environmental impact under the provisions of the EPBC Act.

Activities or actions with substantial environmental risks are considered through higher-level assessments. Comprehensive assessments such as the preparation of an environmental impact statement are conducted in accordance with the provisions of the EPBC Act and involve community consultation.