The department is responsible for the administration of the airport environmental regulatory regime at 22 federally-leased airports around Australia. These airports are managed under a comprehensive environmental regulatory framework established by the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997. This regulatory framework applies to the management of all on-ground environmental issues, including air, soil, water, noise and chemical pollution on-airport. As the federally-leased airports are located on Commonwealth land, state and territory laws do not apply.
Additionally, the department works collaboratively with all federally leased airports to ensure the adoption of relevant national guidelines and standards, including:
- National Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs)
- Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality
- National Water Quality Management Strategy
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) Management Plan
- National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness
- PFAS National Environmental Management Plan
Further information on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is available at: www.pfas.gov.au
- Relevant Australian and International Standards (e.g. ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems)
Environmental Considerations in Airport Major Development Plans
The Airports Act 1996 (s89(1)(m-n)) defines a major airport development to include:
- a development of a kind that is likely to have significant environmental or ecological impact; and
- a development which affects an area identified as environmentally significant in the airport environment strategy.
An airport lessee company is required to prepare a Major Development Plan (MDP) for each major development at a federally-leased airport. The MDP must set out the environmental impacts that can reasonably be expected and the proponent’s proposed measures for dealing with those impacts. The Airports Act requires the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, in deciding to approve or refuse to approve an MDP, to have regard for “the impact that carrying out the plan would be likely to have on the environment” (s94(3)(c)). To inform this decision, the draft MDP is referred to the Department of the Environment and Energy for advice under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The EPBC Act (s160(1) and (2c)) requires advice be sought and considered from the Minister for the Environment and Energy prior to a decision being made on the approval of an MDP. Following referral of a draft MDP, the Environment Minister has 20 business days to decide if the proposed action triggers matters protected by the EPBC Act and requires further assessment and approval. As part of the 20 business days, the EPBC Act provides a public comment period of 10 business days (with no extensions).
If significant impacts are considered likely on any matter of national environmental significance, and the action is deemed to be a controlled action, then the referral to the Environment Minister will proceed to environmental assessment and approval under the EPBC Act.
Airport Environment Officers
The department appoints Airport Environment Officers (AEOs) to oversight each airport’s compliance with its environmental legislative responsibilities. The AEOs are responsible for the day to day oversight of the operation of the airport environmental regulatory regime at the federally leased airports. The AEOs are authorised to make decisions regarding compliance with regulations and standards, and to take compliance action when there is a breach of the regulatory framework.
The AEOs operate within a compliance framework that clearly describes roles and responsibilities, and decision-making processes. The compliance framework promotes outcomes, evidence and risk-based approaches to administering environmental regulation on airports. An important component of the airport compliance framework is the early identification, assessment and management of risks within a risk assessment framework that is supported by a Risk Register for monitoring and reporting purposes.
- AEO Contacts
- Airports Building Control and On-ground Environment Compliance Framework PDF: 1433 KB
- AEO Operations Manual PDF: 897 KB
The Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997 will sunset on 1 April 2019. The department is currently undertaking a review of the regulations, including consultation with industry stakeholders, to remake the regulations.
- Sunsetting process further information.
Darwin Airport Environmental Investigation
The Darwin Airport Environment Officer has completed an environmental regulatory investigation, under the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997, into allegations of waste mismanagement by Airservices Australia at Darwin International Airport. The investigation concluded that Airservices did not contravene the airport environmental regulations.
The Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities will continue to work closely with Airservices Australia, Darwin Airport and the Department of Defence to ensure appropriate risk-based and practical measures and management systems are in place to protect the environment at the airport.
The investigation report was released on 21 February 2019 and is available below.
Sydney Water Authorisation
The Sydney Airport Environment Officer has completed an assessment and granted authorisation with conditions to Sydney Water Corporation under Part 5 of the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997 to periodically discharge sewerage from the overflow point at Discharge Bay, Mill Pond at Sydney Airport until 31 March 2024.
The Airport Environment Officer will work closely with Sydney Water and Sydney Airport Corporation to monitor the compliance with the authorisation and conditions listed within.
The authorisation was issued on 30 April 2021 and is available below.
- 01/2021 Sydney Water Authorisation PDF: 199 KB