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Ecologically Sustainable Development and Environmental Performance

Administration of Commonwealth Policy on the Management of Land Affected by Unexploded Ordnance

Defence continues to provide advice to Commonwealth, state, territory and local government authorities on the policy, commercial and technical aspects of unexploded ordnance management. A summary of the Defence unexploded ordnance program is set out below, including an outline of public awareness activities, the relationship with private firms operating in the unexploded ordnance field and the main areas of activity in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and on Defence property.

The Defence register includes over 1,100 sites that are potentially affected by unexploded ordnance, more than 300 of which pose significant hazard levels. Of this number, the Commonwealth occupies or controls only approximately ten per cent, with the balance controlled by states, territories, local authorities and private land holders. The focus of Defence's activities is to gather and disseminate information that will assist in the safe management of land that may be affected by unexploded ordnance. The risk categorisation of a number of sites is being reassessed and refined as part of the development of an unexploded ordnance risk assessment model. Two categories of risk, which trigger appropriate advices for land management and planning authorities, have been identified for land used for military purposes that may have resulted in unexploded ordnance contamination. These categories are:

Defence estimates that it will take in the order of ten years to complete a national program of detailed assessments of unexploded ordnance sites categorised as significant. The significance of sites and their relative priority would be based primarily on the magnitude of human exposure determined through the application of the risk assessment model and through consultations with the states and territories.

Full-page unexploded ordnance warnings were placed in police child safety handbooks in all states as a means to increase public awareness of unexploded ordnance hazards. In Queensland, additional public awareness activities were undertaken in areas of higher risk.

One unexploded ordnance related injury occurred in 2002-03. A civilian suffered minor injuries by following an unexploded ordnance remediation task at Puckapunyal, Victoria when an item of ammunition malfunctioned in a scrap metal yard in Melbourne.

The Defence Unexploded Ordnance Panel, which comprises private unexploded ordnance contractors and consultants, continues to provide an efficient and effective means to deliver Defence-sponsored investigative surveys and remediation projects. The panel arrangement facilitates the commercial and technical relationship between Defence and the unexploded ordnance industry. The first Defence unexploded ordnance forum, a venue for review of panel members' activities and the administration of the panel, was conducted in November 2002. A significant outcome was the further development of an unexploded ordnance risk assessment model for the screening of sites, by which ordnance assessment and remediation tasks can be prioritised.

In Queensland, assessments were finalised on 12 sites within five affected regions, the Atherton Tableland, Cairns, Innisfail, Mission Beach and Miles. Local government area-based assessment reports were prepared for seven local government areas - Caloundra, Noosa, Cairns, Johnstone, Maroochy, Murilla and Pine Rivers. A further report was prepared on the Cooloola National Park.

The identification by Defence of a substantial unexploded ordnance contamination site at Tinaroo in north Queensland led to the pre-development remediation of the site. This remediation removed some hundreds of potentially hazardous items, including chemical unexploded ordnance, from the proposed development site. A public information campaign continues, with north Queensland being targeted. Local newspaper, radio and television all carried unexploded ordnance stories and/or warnings during the year. A review commenced of the memorandum of understanding between Defence and the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency on the management of unexploded ordnance in Queensland. The Queensland unexploded ordnance site assessment project has been extended and final assessments are expected to conclude by the end of 2003. Final reports, by local government authority area, continue to be prepared for the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency.

In New South Wales, a new unexploded ordnance advice mechanism was agreed between Defence and the Land and Property Information Office of the Department of Lands. Using this facility, with information provided by Defence, the New South Wales Government is now able to make available to the public, and particularly those involved in conveyancing, information as to whether a property is potentially affected by unexploded ordnance and recommend measures to minimise any potential resultant hazard. The mechanism enables appropriate advice on unexploded ordnance risk to be attached to land titles. The development of a new unexploded ordnance sites database commenced in 2003 as part of this initiative, which, on completion, will identify, by real property description, approximately 90 per cent of potentially affected titles.

In Western Australia, the information-sharing agreement with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia Unexploded Ordnance Service continues to work well. Western Australia now requires Defence Unexploded Ordnance Panel accreditation as a prerequisite for unexploded ordnance contractors and consultants to operate in the State and Defence has provided advice and assistance in this area. In 2003, Defence designed and managed the assessment and remediation of the proposed Lancelin to Cervantes road alignment through the World War II Lancelin Range on behalf of Main Roads Western Australia under a cost-recovery arrangement.

In respect to Defence property, the initiative to progressively remediate training areas of unexploded ordnance and explosive ordnance waste continues to develop. In 2002-03, contracts were let at Salt Ash, Holsworthy, Marrangaroo (near Lithgow) and Singleton in New South Wales, Mount Bundey in the Northern Territory, Wide Bay and Greenbank in Queensland and Puckapunyal in Victoria.