All gas pipeline developments in NSW are designated as State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) projects under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and are accordingly subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment process. The EP&A Act includes provisions to ensure that the potential environmental impacts of the project are assessed and considered in the decision-making process, and that the community is appropriately consulted.
APA commenced the approvals process on 21 February 2017 by lodging a Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the Project with the Department of Planning & Environment (DPE). DPE issues Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) for the project
Copies of the PEA, SEARs and a range of other relevant project information is available on DPE’s Major Projects website - http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=8272
Field survey work to inform the development of the Environmental Impact Statement was completed throughout 2017 and included:
- Recording of 1922 fauna records of 211 species
- Recording of 770 flora species and 30 individual plant communities
- Approximately 270 kilometres of cultural heritage pedestrian survey and 155 test excavation pits
- Collection of more than 200 soil samples.
APA is currently finalising the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement for lodgment with DPE. A pipeline licence under the Pipelines Act 1967 will also required before the construction and operation of the proposed gas pipeline can proceed.
Authority to Survey
The Pipelines Act 1967 in NSW enables a proponent to seek an Authority to Survey (ATS), from the Minister for Energy and Utilities, for a proposed pipeline. An ATS provides a mechanism for the proponent (in this case, APA) to be permitted to enter private property for the purpose of undertaking surveys of the pipeline alignment.
Following public consultation, APA was granted an ATS for the Western Slopes Pipeline project on 30 June 2017. A copy of the ATS is available here.
Subject to conditions, the ATS allows APA to enter land covered by the authority to perform necessary survey activities to investigate the proposed pipeline route.
In response to questions from the community regarding the scope of the ATS, the Department of Planning and Environment has updated its website to make it clear that the ATS allows a range of activities including ecology, soils, cultural heritage and geospatial/topographic surveys required to inform the project Environmental Impact Statement.
APA is responsible for ensuring our activities both during initial field surveys and later during construction adhere to all legislative requirements and Government policy applicable to biosecurity and weed management matters. These issues are not unique to the Western Slopes Pipeline. Successful management of weed and other biosecurity matters is a responsibility we take very seriously on all of our projects and operational assets.
During discussions with landholders prior to access occurring, we will be seeking assistance to identify any known areas of weed infestation or other biosecurity concerns. This consultation will inform the planning of our fieldwork and the weed management and biosecurity protocols to be followed on individual properties.
In the absence of specific feedback from affected landholders, and prior to accessing any property, APA has exercised its duty of care in assessing and mitigating any biosecurity risks. APA has its own biosecurity protocol which has been prepared to address identified project risks and fulfil our General Biosecurity Duty during the current phase of the project.
APA is aware that some landholders are finding the current biosecurity environment challenging partly due to new government regulations in this space and a lack of clarity around landholder obligations. APA has considered how we can better assist in this regard and where access is proposed in the future we will offer to make available suitable consultant expertise to assist landholders in the preparation of a property Biosecurity Management Plan in accordance with the guidelines and processes recommended by the DPI.
The findings of our field survey activities, as well as ongoing consultation with landholders and Government agencies, will be used to inform specific commitments within the project Environmental Impact Statement regarding the management of weed and biosecurity risks during construction and operation.