Appendix C: Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

The following summary of the Department's environmental management activities and performance is provided in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which requires entities to report on:

  • how their activities accord with, and their outcomes contribute to, the principles of ecologically sustainable development; and
  • the environmental impacts of their operations during the year, and measures taken to minimise these.

The Department undertakes all of its activities, from corporate initiatives to departmental policies, programs and procedures, in accordance with the five principles set out in the Act: integration, precaution, intergeneration, biodiversity and valuation.

Infrastructure and regional development

Under the Infrastructure Investment program, the Department worked in partnership with state and territory transport agencies to ensure environmental issues were appropriately considered in identifying, designing and delivering infrastructure projects.

The Department continued to implement programs which support the sustainability of Australia's regions. This included ongoing support for projects that construct and install sustainable infrastructure, including the use of current ecologically sustainable technology.


The Department played a key role in protecting the marine environment for future generations from the impacts of international shipping through its ongoing work at the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee. The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) entered into force internationally on 1 January 2017. The Polar Code specifies operational and structural measures for ships, to improve maritime safety and minimise environmental risks in polar environments. These measures encompass design, construction, equipment and operational matters, as well as training, search and rescue, and environmental discharges.

The Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Polar Code) Bill 2017 (assented on 19 May 2017) amended the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 to implement conditions in the Polar Code, especially requirements relating to the discharge of sewage from ships in polar regions.

The Department continued to collaborate with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to help develop international standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. The IMO is working towards an initial strategy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, set for adoption in early 2018.

The Department also administered the annual Australian contribution to the IMO and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

Motor vehicles

The Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions was established in October 2015 to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to reducing vehicle emissions. In 2016, the Department worked with the Department of the Environment and Energy to develop three proposals to improve fuel efficiency, reduce noxious emissions and improve fuel quality, as well as provide regulatory impact statements. The Ministerial Forum released these proposals for public comment in December 2016. The Australian Government is expecting to take a decision on the detail and timing of these proposals in 2017–18.


The Department worked with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on global strategies to redress impacts of aviation on the environment, including aircraft noise and emissions. This included establishing a cross-agency/industry working group to help ICAO develop the technical elements of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, and to oversee implementation of the scheme in Australia to allow international aviation operators to meet reporting requirements under the scheme commencing 1 January 2019.

The Department assessed the environmental, social and economic impacts of all airport master plans, major development plans and airport environment strategies, which airport lessee companies are required to prepare and submit for approval under the Airports Act 1996. The Department advised the Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, on the extent that these documents met legislative requirements, including assessments of environmental impacts and plans for dealing with them.

The Australian Government purchased land at Badgerys Creek in the 1980s and 1990s in preparation for a decision on the location of a future airport. The administered program, Sydney West Airport—site management, pays for water and land rates, maintenance and other costs associated with renting out the properties on this land. The Department continued to implement a tenancy transition plan to ensure the site could be vacated and prepared for the development of an airport.

As tenants have vacated the site, buildings and structures have been demolished and services disconnected to reduce health and safety risks. Other property management activities have included the appropriate management of illegal dumping and site security measures.

The Australian Government conducted a robust and rigorous environmental assessment for the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek. The development of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was informed by 5,000 submissions and 16 community information events across nine different council areas in Western Sydney during its development. The EIS considered a range of factors, including the environmental, social, economic and cultural aspects of developing and operating an airport in the area. Mitigation measures to minimise and manage the impacts are also considered in the environmental assessment.

Following finalisation of the EIS, a strict set of more than 40 environmental conditions, addressing environmental issues across biodiversity, noise and heritage, were included as part of the development approval for the Western Sydney Airport.


The Department is responsible for infrastructure delivery in the Indian Ocean Territories and Jervis Bay Territory. Each infrastructure project was assessed against the requirements under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act at the project approval stage. Where required, Environmental management plans were established at the construction phase and implemented during project delivery. All project design and delivery work took into account sustainability principles and whole-of-life impacts.

Throughout the year, the Department had access to the Department of Defence's infrastructure and environment and heritage panels. This helped the Department plan for projects, develop requests for tender documentation, incorporate environmental requirements into contractual arrangements, and obtain environmental approvals.

On Norfolk Island, all historical area works aligned with ecological sustainability requirements. In addition, the Department continues to work with the Norfolk Island Regional Council to assist it to develop more sustainable waste management practices.

Office energy use

The Department is committed to implementing ecologically sustainable principles in its operations and limits the consumption of office energy and other resources wherever practical.

All central office locations use automated lighting controls to switch off non-essential lighting outside of work hours and have devices in place to minimise water use. A number of initiatives are in place to provide effective waste management and to monitor and maintain indoor environment quality in major offices.

The Department uses seven per cent green energy and has also been progressively reducing the carbon footprint from the use of motor vehicles. Today, the Departments' entire operational vehicle fleet is hybrid technology vehicles.

No breaches of environmental laws or licences by the Department were reported during 2016–17.

Due to a difference between reporting timeframes for the energy use data and the Department's Annual Report, energy consumption data for 2016–17 will be provided in the Annual Report for 2017–18. Data for 2014–15 and 2015–16 are provided in Table C.1.

Table C.1 Departmental energy consumption 2014–15 to 2015–16
Buildings and electricity2014–152015–16
Office buildings
Area occupied (m2) 43,143 34,565
Occupantsa 1,305 1,326
Area per person (m2) 33.04 26.07
Electricity used (GJ) 12,755 10,949
Electricity used per person (MJ)b 9,774 8,257
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 296 317
Electricity sourced from renewable sources (%) 4.4 7.3
Other buildingsc
Area occupied (m2) 453 453
Electricity used (GJ)d 348 324
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 768 715
Total of the above
Direct energy consumed (GJ) 13,103 11,273
Greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents)e 3,593 2,990


  1. Occupants may include contractors and employees of contracted service providers as well as departmental employees.
  2. The Australian Government's energy consumption target is no more than 7,500 megajoules per person per year.
  3. Other buildings (Mitchell Warehouse) the Net Lettable Area is apportioned to 35 per cent.
  4. Includes green power.
  5. Emission includes scope 2 (direct) and scope 3 (indirect).

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Last Updated: 16 April, 2018