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Chapter 9 - Environmental Performance

Environmental Performance

The Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force launched the Defence Environmental Policy in September 2016. Through implementation of the policy, Defence will:

  • deliver a sustainable estate across Defence maritime, land and aerospace areas, activities and operations
  • understand and manage its environmental impacts
  • minimise future pollution risks and manage existing contamination risks
  • improve the efficiency of its resource consumption and strengthen resource security
  • recognise and manage the Defence estate heritage values.

The Defence Environmental Policy is supported by the Defence Environmental Strategy 2016–2036 and the Defence Environmental Plan. The Defence Environmental Strategy articulates how Defence will achieve its environmental vision. The Defence Environmental Plan outlines specific actions, timeframes and responsibilities for implementing the strategy and reporting on achievements.

Land management

Defence, in working with its Base Services contractors, continues to manage its estate in a way that promotes environmental sustainability and meets legislative environmental obligations.

During 2016–17, the Base Services contracts continued to provide a better opportunity for an integrated service delivery approach to land and environmental management, thereby preventing cumulative adverse impacts on environmental and heritage values. Defence identified a number of ad hoc environmental projects to be moved into scheduled and planned approaches to activities such as bushfire monitoring and management; water quality monitoring; management of native, domestic, feral and invasive species; and biosecurity management.

Defence also continued to assess the effectiveness of the Base Services land management scope of works to ensure that it is delivering on the initial intent of proactive, adaptive and responsive service delivery that complies with Defence’s legislative obligations.

Waste management

Defence has specific waste management targets that include minimising the amount of material from Defence being diverted to landfill; reducing consumption of natural resources by minimising the amount of packaging material purchased; and reducing waste management and disposal costs through waste streaming. Defence, with its Base Services contractor, continues to focus on meeting these targets through waste management service delivery rationalisation.

During 2016–17, Defence managed the removal of over 38,000 tonnes of waste from the domestic Defence estate utilising its national Base Service contractor. Working with the contractor, Defence has been able to divert over 7,000 tonnes of landfill waste to the contractor’s bioreactor facilities, converting this waste into electricity by harvesting methane gas produced during the biodegradation process. In addition, over 5,000 tonnes of recyclable materials have been diverted from various local and municipal landfill sites.

Energy service delivery

Defence continues to support energy innovation through data and information analysis, the procurement of energy supply agreements, and specific projects such as the Carnegie Clean Energy wave energy project in Western Australia.

In supporting energy innovation, Defence remains focused on ensuring energy supply effectiveness, infrastructure maintenance and usage management. During 2016–17, the rollout of a photovoltaic solar program commenced, and included the provision of solar-generated energy at Defence sites such as Cowley Beach, Innisfail (20 kilowatts), 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment Headquarters, Porton Barracks, Cairns (56 kilowatts), the Army Museum of North Queensland, Townsville (32 kilowatts), and Victoria Barracks, Melbourne (100 kilowatts).

Referrals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

No Defence projects were referred for formal consideration under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in 2016–17. No Defence projects were formally assessed under the EPBC Act during 2016–17.

Environmental improvement initiatives and review

Exercise Talisman Saber 2017

Defence completed a comprehensive environmental assessment for Exercise Talisman Saber 2017, which is a major military exercise involving Australian and international armed forces operating across various locations throughout Australia.

Remediation programs

Defence is undertaking ongoing contamination and explosive ordnance waste assessments and remediation across priority areas on the Defence estate, including environmental remediation works at Moorebank, New South Wales, and the remediation of explosive ordnance waste at multiple air weapons ranges, including Salt Ash and Evans Head in New South Wales and Delamere in the Northern Territory.

Heritage management on the Defence estate

Defence manages heritage values on the Defence estate consistent with the principles and requirements of Commonwealth heritage legislation, including identification and management of risks to heritage assets during planning, development and operation of Defence facilities. Defence continues to progress heritage assessments and development of heritage management plans in accordance with the Defence Estate Heritage Strategy.

Land Activities Environmental Management Plan

During 2016–17, Defence completed the Land Activities Environmental Management Plan, which provides guidance for military activities on the Defence estate and at non-Defence training areas. This guidance includes provision of environmental reference cards for use by ADF personnel in the field, and covers 15 training areas. Guidance within the Land Activities Environmental Management Plan was used in the planning of the military exercises Hamel 2016 and Talisman Saber 2017.

Pollution prevention manual

During 2016–17, Defence completed a review and draft update of its pollution prevention manual, including 10 specific pollution prevention guidelines. The Defence water quality monitoring manual was also updated and published. A national program has commenced to remove and dispose of disused fuel storage tanks across the Defence estate.

Land management and biodiversity

Defence continues to update and develop bushfire management plans for fire-prone sites and to progress cooperative arrangements with state and territory bushfire authorities.

Defence has engaged the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to undertake land management at the Yampi Sound Training Area in the West Kimberley. Activities include monitoring for threatened species, mosaic burning to promote biodiversity, and engaging traditional owners in land management.

In May 2017, the Bradshaw Field Training Area hosted Bush Blitz, a program aimed at the discovery of new species. Bush Blitz is a collaborative venture between the Australian Government, universities and private sector organisations. Discoveries in the Bradshaw Field Training Area included an exceedingly rare fish, the Angalarri grunter, specifically the identification of juveniles of that species.

Ecologically sustainable development

The Ecologically Sustainable Development Program continues to deliver energy, water and waste efficiency projects to improve the sustainability of the Defence estate and reduce whole-of-life costs. Projects include the installation of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, lighting upgrades and water-efficient fittings.

Defence commissioned over 400 kilowatts of power from solar photovoltaic panels across the estate during 2016–17, with over half of the panels installed by an Indigenous company.

The Smart Infrastructure Manual, released in 2015, continues to be implemented. The manual defines requirements and obligations for design and construction of infrastructure projects, including energy, water, waste, pollution prevention and smart procurement. The manual requirements are included in all new infrastructure contracts.


In 2015–16, total energy consumption increased by 13.9 per cent compared to 2014–15. This increase can be largely attributed to a rise in operational fuel consumption. Stationary energy use (electricity and gas) increased by 0.9 per cent. This can be largely attributed to multiple major base redevelopments.

Land management innovation—Yampi Sound

In August 2016, Defence signed a contract to partner with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to trial its land management and conservation services throughout the 560,000-hectare Yampi Sound Training Area for an initial term of six years and a renewal term of two years.

The Yampi Sound Training Area has been Defence-owned since the 1970s and is home to more than 1,000 plant species and a large number of animal species, including over 50 mammal species, more than 170 bird species and around 100 reptile species, many of which are endangered.

Central to the success of the partnership will be the involvement of Yampi’s traditional owners—the Dambimangari people. The initiative will deliver a significant increase in Dambimangari involvement at Yampi through employment within the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s on-ground team, training, and ongoing engagement in the design and delivery of fire management and other land management strategies.

Defence fuel supply chain reform and initiatives

During 2016–17, Defence continued its program of hazard identification and risk assessments across the Defence fuel supply chain. A major focus of the program was the integrity of underground and above-ground storage tanks, associated environmental monitoring facilities and leak detection processes, adequacy and condition of bunding, and wastewater treatment and management.

A complementary program of engineering integrity technical reviews was also completed at selected sites across the Defence fuel supply chain that were identified as needing remediation works. These works have either been completed or are scheduled to be undertaken in 2017–18.

In addition, a Defence fuel network review identified, as part of the optimisation of the fuel network, 21 sites for closure out of the existing 107 sites. Twenty-one closures will be undertaken in 2017–18 and will assist in reducing potential adverse environmental impacts.

National per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances investigation and management

Defence continued to expand the national per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) environmental investigation and management program, which is investigating the extent of contamination from the historical use of firefighting foams containing PFAS. Defence and other organisations in Australia and around the world have used these foams since the 1970s to suppress liquid fuel fires.

In 2016–17, Defence completed the detailed investigations and related assessments at RAAF Base Williamtown and Army Aviation Centre Oakey. Defence also commenced detailed environmental investigations at another 16 sites. This represents the largest environmental investigation ever undertaken in Australia.

The program includes a comprehensive and detailed environmental investigation—underway at 18 Defence properties, including RAAF Base Williamtown and Army Aviation Centre Oakey—that entails environmental site assessments, human health risk assessments, ecological assessments and strategic management plans. Defence provided an alternative water supply to those residents neighbouring investigation sites who were reliant on bore water for drinking. In late 2016, Defence also began exploring and implementing options for the management and remediation of contaminated water and soil. These options range from clearance of drains and water processing plants through to exploring emerging scientific and technical approaches for future application.

In the first half of 2017, Defence worked with Commonwealth, state, territory and local authorities, including the PFAS Taskforce (led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) and the Commonwealth Department of Health, to communicate details of the investigations and the broader management program to local communities.