Strategic assessment of the Molonglo Valley Plan

On 16 September 2008, the federal environment minister and the ACT Minister for Planning, announced that a strategic assessment of the proposed Molonglo and North Weston Structure Plan would be undertaken in accordance with section 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The Structure Plan sets out the planning and development guidelines and principles for urban development and associated infrastructure at Molonglo and North Weston.

Why was a strategic assessment undertaken?

Preliminary environmental investigations in the Molonglo and North Weston area identified several matters of national environmental significance. These included: the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard, listed under the EPBC Act as vulnerable; White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum grassy woodland and derived native grassland, listed as critically endangered; and Natural temperate grasslands of the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the ACT, listed as endangered. Given the presence of these, the impacts of development in Molonglo and North Weston were required to be assessed under national environment law.

What was strategically assessed?

The Structure Plan is part of the statutory Territory Plan. It guides urban and commercial development in the Molonglo Valley, as well as associated infrastructure. The Structure Plan, which is to be implemented over the next 20–30 years, considers a broad range of environmental, social and economic planning issues. Many issues it addresses are unlikely to have an impact on nationally protected matters, and may require adjustment during the life of the Structure Plan.

To protect nationally significant matters without unduly constraining the Structure Plan’s implementation, the federal environment minister therefore decided to strategically assess the ACT Government’s Molonglo Valley Plan for the Protection of Matters of National Environmental Significance (the Plan). The Plan identifies nationally protected matters in the Molonglo Valley likely to be affected by implementing the Structure Plan, and sets out protection and conservation strategies to avoid unacceptable impacts. The strategic assessment ensures that development taken in the Molonglo Valley avoids unacceptable impacts on matters protected under national environment law.

Additionally, to meet the ACT Government’s land release schedule, the suburbs of North Weston, Coombs and Wright were removed from the strategic assessment process and were subsequently assessed and approved under separate EPBC Act Part 9 referrals (EPBC referrals 2009/4752, 2009/5041 and 2009/5050).

Strategic Assessment Agreement

A variation to the Strategic Assessment Agreement was subsequently negotiated and signed by delegates of both Governments on 16 March 2010 to assess the Plan. The varied Strategic Assessment Agreement and final Terms of Reference can be accessed below.

Public consultation processes

The public comment period on the draft Plan and the draft Strategic Assessment Report ran from 17 March to 23 April 2010. These documents can be viewed at the ACT Government Department of Environment and Sustainable Development’s Molonglo Valley planning webpage.

Final Plan and Supplementary Assessment Report

The Plan has been finalised and a Supplementary Assessment Report written to address the public comments received during the public comment period. The final Plan and Supplementary Assessment Report can be found on the ACT Government’s Department of Environment and Sustainable Development Molonglo Valley planning webpage.

Endorsement

On 7 October 2011, the federal environment minister endorsed the Plan. This is the third strategic assessment in Australia to reach the endorsement stage. The endorsement of this Plan allows the federal environment minister to consider giving approval to actions or class of actions that are taken in accordance with the endorsed Plan.

Approval

On 20 December 2011, the federal environment minister approved actions associated with urban development in East Molonglo as described in the endorsed Plan.

Further information