Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act)
North East Link was assessed by the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation 1999 Act (EPBC Act).
The EPBC Act is the Australian Government’s central piece of environmental legislation. It provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places.
A Public Environment Report (PER) was submitted to the Minister for the Environment on Monday 30 September to inform approval under the EPBC Act. A draft was exhibited for public comment from 16 April – 30 May 2019.
The PER included information on how the project could affect matters of national environmental significance, such as federally listed threatened species and communities, migratory species and the environment on Commonwealth land during construction and operation and how adverse impacts would be managed. It also included a summary of submissions received on the draft and how we addressed them.
The Federal Minister for the Environment approved the project under the EPBC Act on 13 December 2019. The approval includes strict conditions to manage outcomes for matters of national environmental significance and the environment on Commonwealth land.
Strict compliance and reporting requirements are also in place, including for annual reports to be prepared and made available to communities on the North East Link website.
How we’ll be managing environmental outcomes under Commonwealth approvals
The Federal Minister for the Environment has put strict conditions in place to manage environmental outcomes for the Matted Flax-lily and Studley Park Gum trees as well as the removal of native vegetation from Commonwealth land at Simpson Barracks.
Managing outcomes for the Matted Flax-lily
Construction of the North East Link project is expected to require the removal of up to 95 Matted Flax-lily plants. 83 of these are expected to be removed from land at Simpson Barracks.
Impacts will be managed through a salvage and translocation plan. This will involve harvesting, dividing and propagating, and then planting in a suitable location.
We plan to use multiple sites for planting and to harvest and grow multiple ramets (clones) from each plant/patch – making an overall increase in the population in the local area likely.
The Commonwealth Government requires us to ensure that at least 85% of the translocated plants have survived at least five years after the date we put the last plant in the ground, and for us to manage the land used for planting for ten years.
The translocation of Matted Flax-lilies has been successful for other major projects – with survival rates of around 80-90%. Locally, translocation programs have been successful for the South Morang Rail Extension Project and Melbourne Wholesale Markets.
We’re working closely with local councils and other land owners to find suitable translocation sites.
To view the Matted Flax-lily Salvage and Translocation Plan - click here PDF, 9.3 MB.
Managing outcomes for Studley Park Gum trees
The Studley Park Gum is a local hybrid of the River Red Gum and Swamp Gum. It is not a federally listed species, but is significant for the state of Victoria. The trees are included in the Commonwealth approval for the project because they are found on Commonwealth land at Simpson Barracks.
We’re committed to the survival of this unique Victorian hybrid tree. As part of preparing the PER specialists conducted a comprehensive study into the distribution of the Studley Park Gum, helping us to know more about this tree than ever before. We’ll also be implementing a Studley Park Gum Management Framework – the first of its kind for the tree.
Seeds from some of the 46 Studley Park Gums expected to be affected by construction will be collected so a new population can be established. Each of the 46 trees expected to be removed will be replaced by two. To ensure the 2:1 replacement goal will be met, more than 285 saplings will be planted and carefully monitored for up to ten years.
To view the Studley Park Gum Management Framework - click here PDF, 4.3 MB.
Managing removal of native vegetation from Commonwealth land
Under the reference design for North East Link, around 11 hectares of native vegetation would need to be cleared from Commonwealth land at Simpson Barracks. We’ll challenge the project builders to reduce this further during detailed design.
Conditions set by the Federal Minister for the Environment require us to have offsets for the amount of native vegetation that will be cleared in place before construction starts at Simpson Barracks. NELP will need to provide the Commonwealth Government with evidence the offset has been established and that it meets Victorian Government Guidelines.
In addition to the offset program required by the Commonwealth Government, NELP is proposing through the EES approval process in Victoria for the loss to be managed through one of Victoria’s largest ever tree planting programs – with a target of achieving a net gain in canopy cover by 2045.
A copy of the Federal Minister for the Environment’s approval, including the full conditions the project will need to meet are available on the DoEE EPBC referrals website here epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/referralslist under referral number 2018/8142.