On 2 October 2012, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities entered into an agreement with the ACT Government Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate and the ACT Government Economic Development Directorate to undertake a strategic assessment of proposed urban development at Gungahlin, ACT. The strategic assessment will be undertaken in accordance with section 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
On 19 March 2013 the strategic assessment agreement was varied to reflect the expansion of the strategic assessment to include the Gungahlin Town Centre. All parties to the agreement have signed and agreed to the changes.
What development is proposed at Gungahlin, ACT?
The strategic assessment will look at impacts from urban development and infrastructure on biodiversity and matters of national environmental significance at potentially developable sites shown in Figure 1. The strategic assessment will include commitments from the ACT Government to avoid, mitigate and offsets impacts on the natural environment.
Figure 1 – Location of Gungahlin development sites, ACT.
Source: ACT Government
Why is a strategic assessment being undertaken?
Environmental studies have identified several matters of national environmental significance protected under the EPBC Act. These include the threatened Superb Parrot, Regent Honeyeater, Striped Legless Lizard, Golden Sun Moth and the threatened ecological community of White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland and (potentially) Natural Temperate Grassland of the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the Australian Capital Territory.
There are efficiencies in assessing impacts from development of new suburbs in Gungahlin in a single process to ensure that cumulative impacts are well understood and that avoidance, mitigation and offset strategies can be clearly described at a broader landscape scale. There are also advantages to sustainable development because any requirements for environmental protection can be identified upfront and individual development referrals covered by the strategic assessment will not need individual consideration by the Australian Government under the EPBC Act.
The draft Gungahlin Strategic Assessment Biodiversity Plan and draft Gungahlin Strategic Assessment Report have been put out for public consultation by the ACT Government from 22 March 2013 to 19 April 2013. Public consultation provides the opportunity for public submissions regarding the impacts of the proposed development at Gungahlin on matters of national environmental significance. The draft documents are available at the following ACT Government website, which also provides instructions about how to make public comments:
What are the next steps?
At the close of the public comment period, an additional report will be prepared summarising the public comments received and how they are addressed in the final Plan.
When finalised, these documents will be submitted to the Australian Government environment minister for endorsement. The Minister may either request modifications or endorse the Plan. Once a Plan has been endorsed, the Minister may approve actions or classes of actions to be taken in accordance with the endorsed Plan. This approval is a legal step that allows development and other related activities identified in the Plan to proceed without the need for further approval from the Australian Government under the EPBC Act.