Sustainability and environmental performance

7.1 Our Environment Policy

Roads and Maritime is committed to carrying out its business in an environmentally responsible manner by effectively identifying and managing any risks that may potentially affect our environment.

Roads and Maritime takes all reasonably practical steps to ensure there is continuous improvement in environmental performance, including ongoing communication and awareness, active reporting of environmental incidents and continuous learning from experience.

The agency is also committed to environmental management being an essential element of effective road and waterway related infrastructure planning, construction, maintenance and operations, which must be properly considered and integrated into all phases of Roads and Maritime projects.

Our Environmental Sustainability Strategy

In 2015-16 Roads and Maritime updated its Environmental Sustainability Strategy (PDF, 970kb) as part of our ongoing commitment to environmentally sustainable practices. This strategy will guide environmental sustainability initiatives across the organisation over the next five years. It aligns to the priorities in the Roads and Maritime 2020 Strategy and outlines our key focus areas and sustainability objectives.

The highlights of our sustainability and environmental performance in 2015-16 under the strategy are outlined below.

7.2 Key environmental achievements in 2015-16

7.3 Climate change resilience

7.4 Air quality

7.5 Biodiversity

7.6 Pollution control

Noise Abatement Program

The Noise Abatement Program delivered noise mitigation for dwellings and noise sensitive land uses, such as schools, hospitals and churches that are exposed to high levels of road traffic noise.

In 2015-16 Roads and Maritime:

Marine pollution response

NSW Maritime continued to build capability for marine pollution response through:

NSW Maritime managed the impact on the marine environment and navigation safety following the major weather event and storms on the NSW coast in June 2016, including marine pollution response operations in Coffs Harbour and Camden Haven River.

7.7 Liveable communities

Roads and Maritime's Centre for Urban Design provides urban design advice on all projects to ensure they fit sensitively into environments, provide good connectivity and accessibility throughout urban areas, and lead to high quality built environments for customers and the community.

The centre also services the Transport cluster and acts as a leader in the NSW Government sector by participating in NSW transport projects, advising on an all-of-government urban design group, and producing and updating guidelines and standards for use across the government sector. For example, Bridge Aesthetics, the Landscape Guideline and the Noise Wall Design Guideline.

In 2015-16 the Centre for Urban Design:

7.8 Sustainable procurement

7.9 Energy and carbon management

  1. GreenPower is renewable energy sourced from the sun, wind, water and waste that energy companies purchase on behalf of businesses and households.

Traffic signals

During 2014-15 the operation of traffic signals consumed 15,840 MWh of electricity. This was less than half the energy used ten years ago and is the result of installing LED traffic signal lamps.

Figure 4: Electricity use in traffic signals
A graph showing electricity usage in traffic signals over a 15 year period from July 2000 to June 2015. The graph shows that whilst the number of traffic signals across NSW has increased over a 10 year period from approximately 3,000 to just over 4,000 electricity usage has halved in this period.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Roads and Maritime's 2014-15 greenhouse gas emissions were 152,610t CO2. Roads and Maritime has effectively reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about eight per cent over the past year and 11 per cent over the past two years. This has been achieved by consistently reducing electricity use in our traffic signals and buildings, and reducing liquid fuel use (diesel, petrol, and ethanol-blended petrol) in our light and heavy vehicle fleets.

Figure 5: Greenhouse gas emissions1
A graph showing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions Roads and Maritime produced on an annual basis between 2011-12 to 2014-15.
  1. Roads and Maritime energy and greenhouse accounts include operation of the M5 East Tunnel from December 2011 onwards.

7.10 Waste reduction

Construction and maintenance

Roads and Maritime purchases and uses large quantities of raw and manufactured materials and non-construction related goods and services, the manufacture and use of which can have an impact upon our environment. Our objective, as outlined in the Roads and Maritime Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2015-19, is to reduce this impact by minimising the use of non-renewable resources and the quantity of waste disposed to landfill.

The NSW Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy sets a NSW target of recycling 80 per cent of construction and demolition waste by 2021-22. Table 8 shows the waste recovery rates for the three main waste streams generated as part of the Road Maintenance Program during 2015-16. Our waste recovery rates continue to exceed the NSW Government's waste recovery targets.

Roads and Maritime continues to develop fact sheets and other guidance material to assist our employees and contractors to better understand how materials can be reused or recycled. In 2015-16 we developed a technical guide for the management of road construction and maintenance wastes. This guide will assist employees and contractors understand Roads and Maritime's requirements for managing waste. It promotes early planning to minimise waste generation and maximise the potential for reuse and recycling.

Vessel waste recovery

To protect the marine environment from the impact of sewage pollution from vessels and encourage the responsible disposal of vessel waste, Roads and Maritime maintains pump-out facilities at King Street Wharf and monitors three additional pump-out facilities at Wharf 6 White Bay, Blackwattle Bay and Birkenhead Point. During 2015-16 14.21 million litres of untreated sewage waste was pumped out from vessels through these facilities. This represented an eight per cent increase on the previous financial year.

Table 8: Waste recovery rates
Waste type Roads and Maritime waste recovery rates 2015-16 (%) Roads and Maritime target (%) NSW Government waste recovery targets by 2021-22 (%)
Virgin excavated natural material/fill 92 95 80
Concrete 86 90 80
Asphalt 97 90 80

7.11 Paper use

Print paper used in Roads and Maritime offices has been steadily decreasing. In 2015-16 164 tonnes of print paper was used, which was approximately 35 per cent lower than four years previously.

In 2015-16 the proportion of print paper purchased containing recycled content was 95 per cent and remains above our corporate 85 per cent target.

7.12 Heritage

Roads and Maritime considers the impact of our activities on both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage as part of our environmental assessment processes. We aim to minimise impacts through awareness of the diversity of heritage values, sound investigation methods and best practice assessment guidelines for all our operations.

Roads and Maritime works with regulatory agencies and the NSW community, including Aboriginal people, to ensure we achieve best practice conservation outcomes.

During 2015-16 environmental assessments with significant heritage components included WestConnex M4 East and New M5, the Pacific Highway upgrade (particularly Woolgoolga to Ballina) and freight network upgrades.

Heritage management on projects

Roads and Maritime's heritage role is to ensure that it minimises adverse impact to heritage places and values through early identification and assessment of potential heritage impacts, consultation with the community, stakeholders and regulators and making sure that heritage is considered throughout the planning, design and construction process. Some examples of this include:

Heritage and Conservation Register

Roads and Maritime manages its Section 170 Heritage and Conservation Registers (S170 Register), in accordance with the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW). At present the Maritime and Roads registers are separate.

The Section 170 registers list 449 items, comprising 372 in the Roads and 77 in the Maritime registers. The main categories represented are:

In addition to these categories, Roads and Maritime also lists archaeological sites and structural remains on land and under water on the maritime title of Sydney Harbour, survey and navigation marks, memorials and monuments and movable heritage.

Aboriginal cultural heritage consultation and management

Through its new road construction and maintenance activities Roads and Maritime has the potential to impact on Aboriginal heritage, including archaeological sites, objects and places of cultural significance throughout NSW. Consultation is a key element in determining the importance of such places to Aboriginal communities, and Roads and Maritime undertakes consultation in accordance with our Procedure for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Consultation and Investigation. This sets out how Roads and Maritime will meet the requirements of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1979. By integrating assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage into early design stages, Roads and Maritime can avoid or minimise many impacts. Where Aboriginal cultural heritage impacts cannot be avoided, we work with Aboriginal stakeholders to minimise and mitigate our impacts by salvage archaeology and additional documentation.

Timber Truss Bridge Strategy

The Heritage Council of NSW endorsed the Roads and Maritime Timber Truss Bridge Conservation Strategy (PDF, 310kb) on 13 August 2012, providing a basis for the long-term management of the timber truss bridges owned by Roads and Maritime.

During 2015-16 the following major bridge activities took place in accordance with the strategy:

Roads and Maritime Heritage Committee

The Heritage Committee meets quarterly to discuss issues relating to the management of heritage assets and policy development for heritage conservation. The committee includes representatives from:

Four meetings were held in 2015-16 and the committee's specialist expertise contributed to improved outcomes for:

7.13 The environmental planning framework

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) establishes the process for environmental impact assessment and approval of infrastructure and development projects. Roads and Maritime activities are assessed in accordance with the requirements of the EP&A Act (either under Part 5.1 for State significant projects or under Part 5 of the Act for other projects and maintenance activities).

Roads and Maritime has also developed comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines that provide a framework to ensure that environmental assessments are of high quality and meet community expectations.

Managing environmental requirements for projects of State significance

During the reporting period environmental assessments were finalised and approvals for State significant projects were received from the Minister for Planning, including:

Before they were approved, all projects were exhibited for public comment, with Roads and Maritime preparing detailed submissions for consideration by the Department of Planning and Environment. Modification applications to existing approved projects were also granted, including for the Pacific Highway upgrade to allow additional on-ramps at North Macksville.

Managing environmental requirements for Part 5 projects

The majority of Roads and Maritime activities are not of sufficient scale or potential impact to be assessed as State Significant Projects. Instead, these activities are assessed in accordance with the requirements of Part 5 of the EP&A Act. For these projects Roads and Maritime is the proponent and prepares a comprehensive Review of Environmental Factors report prior to determining whether the project should proceed.

The report examines the potential environmental impacts of activities, assesses whether the potential impacts would be significant, and identifies measures to avoid, minimise, mitigate and, in some cases, offset impacts. As part of our Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines, Roads and Maritime has procedures with supporting templates and guidance notes to ensure quality assessment of work carried out under Part 5 of the EP&A Act. During the year, the Project Review of Environmental Factors procedure was reviewed and updated.

During 2015-16 Roads and Maritime prepared and determined Reviews of Environmental Factors for 53 projects and more than 250 routine and minor works activities.

A number of Reviews of Environmental Factors were publicly exhibited for community input, including for:

In addition, Roads and Maritime completed Reviews of Environmental Factors and provided community information for a number of ferry wharf upgrades as part of an ongoing program to improve access for ferry service customers. This included the upgrade of Meadowbank Wharf and McMahons Point Wharf.

Projects requiring Commonwealth environmental approvals

Roads and Maritime projects must also satisfy environmental assessment and approval requirements under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), including for nationally listed threatened species and communities.

EPBC Act strategic assessment approval

The Roads and Maritime strategic assessment approval under the EPBC Act commenced in September 2015. The approval requires Roads and Maritime to report any project that has been assessed under that process. As at 30 June 2016, Roads and Maritime has not exhibited any Environmental Impact Statements or Reviews of Environment Factors using the strategic assessment approval.

NSW bilateral agreement

NSW is signatory to an EPBC Act bilateral agreement with the federal Department of Environment in relation to environmental assessments.

The bilateral agreement commenced on February 2015. One project was subject to the bilateral agreement in 2015-16. The New M5 was referred to the Commonwealth Department of the Environment as potential impacts to matters of national environment significance triggered assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Northern Road upgrade between Mersey Road, Bringelly and Glenmore Parkway, Glenmore Park was determined to be a controlled action due to impacts on Commonwealth land. This project is being assessed outside the bilateral agreement, as the bilateral agreement does not cover impacts to Commonwealth land.

7.14 Threatened species recovery plans

In accordance with section 70(1) of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. Roads and Maritime includes in its annual report actions we have taken to implement measures identified in a recovery plan.

Table 9: Threatened species recovery
Measures Actions taken by Roads and Maritime
Cumberland Plain Threatened Species Recovery Plan (January 2011)
Action 1.5 In circumstances where impacts on the threatened biodiversity are unavoidable, as part of any consent, approval or licence that is issued, ensure that offset measures are undertaken within the priority conservation lands where practicable. Roads and Maritime routinely offsets the residual impacts of road development in accordance with planning approvals.
Action 2.3 Manage, to best practice standards, any lands which are under their ownership or for which they have care control and management. Roads and Maritime ensures actions carried out on these lands are consistent with any relevant approvals and standards including those contained in the recovery plan.
Acacia pubescens (Downy Wattle) Recovery Plan (February 2003)
(12.3) Identify existing and potential threats (for example, weed invasion, hybridisation and reducing access to sites) to the population at Beverly Hills/Narwee (adjacent to the M5, north of Windarra Street). Roads and Maritime employees visited the site and mapped the area of the population in 2000.
(12.3) Develop and implement threat and habitat management programs for the population at Beverly Hills/Narwee (adjacent to the M5, north of Windarra Street). The population was included in the relevant roadside corridor management plan.
(12.3) Monitor populations on a regular basis to assess the effectiveness of threat and habitat management programs for the population at Beverly Hills/Narwee (adjacent to the M5, north of Windarra Street). Nil inspections were carried out in 2015-16.
(12.3.2) Developments and activities are assessed with reference to this recovery plan, environmental assessment guidelines and any future advice from the National Parks and Wildlife Service regarding the distribution, threats, biology and ecology of A.pubescens. Developments and activities near A.pubescens are assessed with reference to the recovery plan, environmental assessment guidelines and any advice from the Office of Environment and Heritage regarding the distribution, threats, biology and ecology of A.pubescens.
(15.3.2) When planning decisions are made that affect populations of A.pubescens, this information will be forwarded to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This includes information on decisions that protect habitat, as well as those that lead to reduction of habitat and/or individuals. Roads and Maritime informs the Office of Environment and Heritage of projects where there are impacts to A.pubescens as a standard project requirement.
National Recovery Plan for Angus's Onion Orchid Microtis angusii (2010)
(5.1) Roads and Maritime will ensure that roadworks and road maintenance at the known location at Ingleside, in potential habitat and in any newly discovered sites, will not cause the destruction or degradation of any part of a M.angusii population, its habitat or potential habitat.
Roads and Maritime will achieve this by: (a) assessing and carrying out all activities with reference to the recovery plan and any future advice regarding the distribution and ecology of M.angusii, (b) ensuring that all relevant environmental and site personnel are familiar with the location of known M.angusii and potential habitat.
Roads and Maritime carries out all activities with reference to the recovery plan and any advice regarding the distribution, ecology and potential habitat of M.angusii.
The planning and assessment for Mona Vale Road continued in 2015-16.
Roads and Maritime continues to liaise with Warringah Council, the Office of Environment and Heritage, and the Botanic Gardens to ensure the proposal would avoid or minimise destruction or degradation to M.angusii at Ingleside.
(6.3) Roads and Maritime will notify the Office of Environment and Heritage of any new sites and populations of M.angusii located through both targeted survey (for example, for environmental assessment purposes) and other sightings. Consultants working for Roads and Maritime routinely submit records for all threatened species including M.angusii to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

7.15 Biodiversity projects

Table 10: Biodiversity projects in 2015-16
Activity Purpose Progress
Research partnership with Department of Primary Industries and University of Queensland A three-year research project to investigate optimal design for culverts to promote fish passage. In 2015-16 the University of Queensland completed the laboratory component of a number of studies into the swimming performance of native fish. This work is now being combined with engineering studies to identify options to improve fish passage through culverts.
Biodiversity performance reviews Designed to identify key issues for the future development of policy, guidelines and training, and as a way to promote ways to minimise impacts on biodiversity. A biodiversity performance review was conducted as part of the Termeil Creek Project in Shoalhaven. This was supported by four training sessions at Parramatta, Grafton, Parkes and Woy Woy designed to build organisational capacity to manage biodiversity during road construction activities.
Biodiversity offsets Strategies designed to offset unavoidable biodiversity impacts. Roads and Maritime continues to implement biodiversity offset strategies for a range of projects.
NSW Wildlife Council An annual contribution to manage wildlife on roads. Roads and Maritime continues to provide an annual contribution of $25,000 to the NSW Wildlife Council to help rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured wildlife in NSW.

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