The Molonglo Valley Plan for the Protection of Matters of National Environmental Significance (NES Plan) was endorsed on 7 October 2011 by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the Honourable Tony Burke.
The Molonglo Valley development is subject to a number of environmental assessment processes under both Commonwealth and ACT legislation.
In 2008, the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) now Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) and the ACT Minister for Planning (now Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate (ESDD) signed an agreement to undertake a strategic assessment of the proposed Molonglo Valley development under s. 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The strategic assessment is one of the first of its kind in Australia in relation to urban development.
The Molonglo Valley Plan for the Protection of Matters of National Environmental Significance (NES Plan) evaluates matters of national environmental significance (including threatened species, migratory species and important ecological communities) across the Molonglo Valley and recommends a range of management and mitigation measures.
The NES Plan was endorsed by Tony Burke MP on 7 October 2011. The matters of national environmental significance are:
- box-gum woodland
- natural temperate grassland
- pink-tailed worm lizard and
- superb parrot and swift parrot, which are protected through the conservation of box-gum woodland, including the Kama Nature Reserve.
The NES Plan should be read in conjunction with:
The Supplementary Assessment Report summarises and responds to the issues raised through the public comment process. It addresses additional issues raised by SEWPaC and provides an analysis of the final NES Plan and describes the outcomes for matters of national environmental significance.
On 20 December 2011, the Commonwealth Minister approved all actions associated with urban development in East Molonglo as described in the NES Plan, provided such actions take place wholly within the strategic assessment area in East Molonglo. The actions include infrastructure, services and construction.
The ACT Government has committed to the NES Plan and its associated actions being audited by an independent, third party expert, every five years for 30 years. In addition, ACT environmental approvals under the Planning and Development Act will also be required.
The Commonwealth and ACT approvals will permit the development of the area to proceed and accommodate 55,000 people.
The ACT Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development exercised his powers under the Planning and Development Act 2007 (ACT) to waive the need for environmental impact statements (EIS) for development of parts of the Molonglo Valley based on the comprehensive environmental investigations already undertaken in association with the Molonglo preliminary assessment.
Referrals under EPBC Act
Referrals under s. 75 and s. 77 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) were lodged with SEWPaC for the first release areas in Molonglo - north Weston, Wright and Coombs.
Under these sections of the EPBC Act, the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment decides whether a proposed action is likely to have a significant impact on one or more matters protected by the Act. If the Minister decides a significant impact is likely, the action will need to be assessed and approved under the Act before any development can commence. This is called a ‘controlled action’.
SEWPaC has determined that the development of North Weston, Wright and the first stage of the north-south arterial road in Molonglo between Streeton Drive and Holden Creek is not a controlled action. SEWPaC has also determined that the development of Coombs is not a controlled action, provided it is undertaken in accordance with the conditions set out in the decision by SEWPaC. ACT Planning and Land Authority (now ESDD) submitted a Reconsideration of Referral Determination: 578A and SEWPaC determined that the development is not a controlled action, provided it is undertaken in the manner set out in the decision by SEWPaC.