Defence has a comprehensive program of environmental impact assessment to ensure the effects of its activities on the environment are considered and managed.
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The specific requirement of the environmental impact assessment process that Defence uses varies depending upon the degree of perceived environmental risk. Routine training activities, minor construction works or the acquisition and use of some equipment items may not pose a significant risk to the environment and the impacts and mitigation strategies will be considered internally by Defence. Where it is identified that some activity, work or new equipment may pose a real risk of potentially significant environmental impacts Defence requires that assessments are undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Regardless of the process used, any environmental issues identified are then managed to mitigate the potential for adverse impacts to occur.
Where Defence undertakes environmental impact assessments Defence uses specialist environmental consulting companies who work with Defence's own team of professionally qualified and experienced environmental managers to ensure environmental risks are identified and managed on the ground. For a major joint military exercise (like the Talisman Saber series), infrastructure development (such as buildings and bases) and major new items of equipment (such as tanks and aircraft) public consultation is routinely undertaken through a Public Environment Report.
Where it is unlikely that significant environmental impacts will arise Defence still considers and manages the effects of these activities on the environment through an internal protocol known as an Environmental Clearance Certificate. This process ensures there is still a robust process for environmental management to minimise the potential for adverse environmental outcomes.
In 2002 the Australian National Audit Office, singled out Defence's environmental impact assessment and clearance process as taking stewardship of the environment a stage further than what is required to just meet legislative requirements. This demonstrates Defence's claim to be a leader in stewardship of the environment.