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Chapter 9 - Environmental performance

Environmental performance

The Defence Environmental Policy and the Defence Environmental Strategic Plan 2016–2036 have been endorsed by the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force, and include the vision of Defence as ‘a leader in sustainable environmental management to support the ADF’s capability to defend Australia and its national interests’.

Defence takes seriously its role in environmental management and is committed to meeting Commonwealth environmental legislative and regulatory requirements, including those in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). A range of environmental policies support the implementation of the strategic plan and seek to embed environmental considerations into everyday business and military processes, systems and activities. This ensures that sustainment and management of the environment are considered as core business and that Defence meets its obligations under the EPBC Act.

To ensure the most effective and efficient management of contamination on Defence sites, a Defence Contamination Management Strategy and a Defence Pollution Prevention Strategy are being implemented to ensure Defence achieves its objectives and delivers on its responsibilities for the management of contamination on the estate.

The environmental management system within the Defence Estate Quality Management System identifies and manages risks across the estate. This quality management system provides a platform for continuous improvement, compliance and best practice standards and policies for the estate and related services.

A Smart Infrastructure Manual guides Defence’s approach to ecologically sustainable development. Initiatives include:

  • applying a whole-of-life approach and ecologically sustainable development as a design input for all capital facilities projects
  • facilitating the consistent assessment and implementation of design options on an ecologically sustainable development and whole-of-life basis
  • detailed reporting to monitor the application of ecologically sustainable development and whole-of-life requirements during a project
  • establishing metrics and measurement systems required to support resource performance monitoring over the infrastructure’s whole life
  • utilising ecologically sustainable development and whole-of-life project reporting to build corporate knowledge.

The Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group’s environmental management system deals with the design of materiel systems. During 2015–16, the Group completed improvements to the system, including providing guidance on environmental legislation. An analysis of state and Commonwealth environmental legislation was conducted to assess the impact on the Group’s materiel engineering policy and guidance.

The Group also produced environmental requirements for the engineering and maintenance business functions, and continued its involvement in the Defence Environmental Policy and Defence Environmental Strategic Plan, including the development of a new Defence environmental plan.

Referrals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

Defence did not refer any new actions for formal consideration under the EPBC Act in 2015–16. Defence had three actions under assessment in 2015–16, two of which were approved in 2015, as shown in Table 9.1.

The Department of the Environment attached conditions to the approval EPBC 2014/7123 (Removal of heritage buildings at RAAF Amberley, Queensland), which are currently being implemented.

Table 9.1: Defence actions approved under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, 2015–16

Defence action

EPBC Act referral number


Removal of heritage buildings at RAAF Amberley, Ipswich, Queensland


Approved, subject to conditions, on 9 June 2015

Removal of heritage buildings from RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales


Referral determined it was not a controlled action (particular manner) on 16 October 2015 (approval is not required)

Flying operations of the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter


Approved, subject to conditions, on 10 July 2015

Environmental improvement initiatives and review

Overall energy consumption during the year was reduced by 4.4 per cent. Energy, water and waste efficiency projects worth $6.5 million were implemented and Defence’s Smart Infrastructure Manual continued to ensure that resource efficiency and pollution prevention initiatives are integrated into the design and construction of new facilities.

During 2015–16, Defence:

  • conducted contamination assessments and remediation across priority sites on the Defence estate
  • commenced a complete review of the use and management of hazardous substances
  • progressed the update of heritage management plans for seven of its Commonwealth heritage places
  • partnered with universities to progress biodiversity initiatives—threatened species and biosecurity registers were updated for all relevant Australian properties
  • continued to progress improvements to its bushfire policy and its preparedness for bushfires
  • updated its procedures under the ADF Maritime Activities Environmental Management Plan, to ensure compliance with new environmental law and to incorporate risks associated with new capabilities—the Navy undertook 66 hull inspections for marine pests with none found
  • assessed the risks to the enterprise posed by plans to reduce hydrofluorocarbon usage.

Base services contracts continued to improve kerbside collection data and waste streaming, and Defence commenced updates to the Waste Minimisation Policy.

Interdepartmental collaboration was undertaken to ensure best practice bulk storage of halon at the National Halon Bank.

Exercise Talisman Sabre 15, involving Australian and US ships and aircraft, was conducted in the Northern Australian Exercise Area without significant environmental incidents.

Defence fuel supply chain reform and initiatives

Defence is responsible for managing its fuel installations in order to avoid adverse environmental impacts. During 2015–16, Defence continued its program of hazard identification and risk assessments and control assurance reviews across the Defence fuel supply chain. Major focus points of these activities were the integrity of storage tanks; associated environmental monitoring facilities and leak detection processes; adequacy and condition of bunding; and wastewater treatment and management. In addition, separate engineering integrity technical reviews were completed on all underground pipelines and hydrant lines across the Defence fuel supply chain, with remediation works undertaken as required.

National PFC environmental management program

A national perfluorinated compound (PFC) environmental management program was continued by Defence to assess contamination from the historical use of firefighting foams containing per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances. Defence and other organisations in Australia and around the world have used these foams since the 1970s to suppress liquid fuel fires.

Defence investigated the extent of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in and around RAAF Williamtown and Army Aviation Centre Oakey, and initiated investigations at RAAF East Sale, HMAS Albatross and RAAF Pearce. Defence also commenced preliminary sampling at 13 other sites to inform future works.

Defence worked with Commonwealth, state, territory and local authorities, and made the verified results of investigations available to those authorities and local communities.

Climate change

Defence developed models of climate change impacts on humanitarian and disaster-relief mission frequency, location, scale and duration as part of preparedness planning. The study focused on addressing how climate change might impact the ability of training areas to deliver Defence capability. It determined physical physical mitigation strategies to assist in reducing this impact.