6 Sustainability and environmental performance

6.1 2016‑17 highlights

Strategic environmental management advice and specialist support was provided to state significant infrastructure projects including WestConnex, NorthConnex and Pacific Highway upgrade projects.

Our agency drives improvement in environmental performance through monitoring environmental compliance, educating and influencing employees and industry partners.

In 2016‑17 we:

  • carried out 1,168 environmental inspections on 280 separate projects. Green traffic light status on environmental performance was achieved for 74 per cent of project environmental inspections, with four per cent receiving a red traffic light status34

  • carried out detailed environmental performance reviews on four projects of different scales which were targeted based on analysis of environmental performance data

  • promoted sharing of knowledge and lessons learnt via distribution of our quarterly environment newsletter and seven ‘Lessons Learnt' fact sheets to project teams and industry partners

    delivered more than 54 training sessions to more than 740 participants to improve environmental outcomes across a range of environmental assessment and management areas

  • improved our environment incident reporting system for better analysis of incident causes and identification of performance improvement opportunities

  • carried out more than 80 environmental audits on infrastructure and maintenance projects

  • established an environment managers' network with industry partners to facilitate discussion of the latest developments in environment management on infrastructure projects and to have a better mutual understanding of what excellent performance looks like.

  1. Red status indicates urgent action was required to improve environmental performance.

6.2 Environmental Sustainability Strategy

In 2016‑17 we continued to implement the 2015-2019 Environmental Sustainability Strategy, which includes key corporate sustainability objectives.

As part of this strategy, we have been continually monitoring and improving the sustainability of our network and have achieved substantive energy savings from traffic signals and an increase in recycling of waste materials from road works.

A key highlight of the year was the recognition of the NorthConnex project by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) for achieving best practice in sustainability35. NorthConnex is the first road tunnel in Australia to achieve a ‘leading' rating, which is the highest possible achievement in the ISCA rating scheme. ISCA is the peak industry body for advancing and assessing sustainability in Australia's infrastructure. Other highlights of our performance in
2016‑17 are outlined below.

  1. The ISCA leading rating was awarded to the NorthConnex Infrastructure Sustainability Rating Registrant, Lendlease Bouygues Joint Venture and the proponent Roads and Maritime Services.

6.3 Environmental performance

State significant infrastructure projects

State significant infrastructure is assessed under Part 5.1 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and approved by the Minister for Planning. During the reporting period, two Environmental Impact Statements for state significant infrastructure were publicly exhibited:

  • The Northern Road upgrade Mersey Road, Bringelly to Glenmore Parkway, Glenmore Park
  • Newcastle Inner City Bypass - Rankin Park to Jesmond.

Other projects

The majority of the agency's activities are not of sufficient scale or potential impact to be assessed as state significant infrastructure. These activities are assessed under Part 5 of the EP&A Act. For these projects, we prepare a Review of Environmental Factors report before determining whether the project should proceed.

Our projects must satisfy environmental assessment and approval requirements under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), where they impact matters of national environmental significance including nationally listed threatened species and communities, or the environment of Commonwealth land.

During 2016‑17 we determined the Review of Environmental Factors for more than 70 projects and more than 165 routine and minor works.

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

  • Pacific Highway upgrade, Parsons Road to Ourimbah Street, Lisarow
  • Mona Vale Road West, McCarrs Creek Road, Terrey Hills to Powder Works Road, Ingleside
  • Heathcote Road Upgrade, Infantry Parade to The Avenue
  • Bells Line of Road, Chifley Road upgrade
  • Rozelle Rail Yards site management works
  • New England Highway, Belford to Golden Highway
  • Gee Gee bridge
  • Archbold Road upgrade and extension between the Great Western Highway, Minchinbury and Old Wallgrove Road, Eastern Creek
  • Chiswick Wharf Interchange upgrade
  • Cockatoo Island Wharf upgrade
  • Milsons Point Wharf Interchange expansion.

Strategic assessment approval

The Roads and Maritime strategic assessment approval under the EPBC Act commenced in September 2015. The approval requires us to report any project that has been assessed under that process.

Three of the projects listed above covered by the EPBC Act strategic assessment approval included:

  • Mona Vale Road West Upgrade, McCarrs Creek Road, Terrey Hills to Powderworks Road, Ingleside
  • New England Highway upgrade between Belford and the Golden Highway
  • Pacific Highway upgrade, Parsons Road to Ourimbah Street, Lisarow.

As at 30 June 2017, the agency had not determined any projects likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance.

EPBC Act and referrals

NSW is signatory to an EPBC Act bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy in relation to environmental assessments. The bilateral agreement commenced on February 2015.

In 2016‑17 the Newcastle Inner City Bypass - Rankin Park to Jesmond project was subject to the bilateral agreement. This project was referred to the Department of Environment and Energy due to potential impacts to matters of national environment significance.

In 2016‑17 the Albion Park Rail Bypass - Princes Highway upgrade project was referred to the Department of Environment and Energy and determined to be a controlled action due to impacts on a nationally listed endangered ecological community. This project is being assessed outside the bilateral agreement as the endangered ecological community was listed after exhibition of the NSW Environmental Impact Statement and, as such, the bilateral agreement does not apply.

Tunnel air quality

In 2016‑17 we continued to support the Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality chaired by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer. The committee provides whole-of-government understanding of the scientific and engineering issues informing road tunnel ventilation design and operation based on over two decades of tunnel operations in NSW, and wider national and international experience.

Reducing road traffic noise

Our agency is committed to assessing noise treatment for all floors of affected multi-storey dwellings to minimise operational noise impact on our projects. This commitment led to the development of the noise treatment guideline to facilitate a consistent approach to evaluate, select and design appropriate noise control options at a receiver (rather than source) across projects and the Noise Abatement Program.

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

In 2016‑17 we:

  • invested $7 million on architectural treatments to properties and a further $2.5 million on noise walls
  • treated 177 properties in the Sydney region and 115 properties across other parts of NSW. This included acoustically treating or upgrading windows, doors and seals
  • built one new noise wall in Sydney and developed designs for five other noise walls.

Biodiversity conservation

Avoiding, mitigating and offsetting residual impacts on biodiversity including nationally and NSW-listed threatened species and endangered ecological communities is a routine component of our road development activities.

We apply best practice environmental safeguards including protecting environmentally sensitive areas, controlling pathogens and weeds, caring for any native fauna encountered, providing temporary nest boxes and providing connectivity structures to reduce fragmentation effects.

One example of this was the demolition of the Sportsman's Creek Bridge near Grafton. This project utilised an innovative solution to minimise disruption to a large breeding colony of a threatened microbat species living under the existing bridge. The solution included integrating roosting and breeding habitat into the new concrete bridge design, which was a first for a new bridge in Australia.

We have strengthened our efforts to offset the impacts of our activities on biodiversity. In 2016-2017 we:

  • revised our biodiversity assessment and offsetting guidelines
  • provided guidance and financial support to facilitate landholders participating in the NSW BioBanking Scheme
  • purchased BioBanking credits to offset residual impacts arising from the NorthConnex and New M5 projects.

We continue to support research activities and community conservation efforts. In 2016‑17 we:

  • supported the Koala Advisory Committee chaired by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer. This committee is examining options to strengthen koala conservation efforts including managing impacts arising from vehicle strike and habitat fragmentation
  • provided financial support to the NSW Wildlife Council, a volunteer group which co-ordinates and promotes the care of injured and orphaned wildlife
  • provided financial support to the University of Queensland, which is investigating the swimming performance of native fish through culverts and options to improve culvert design
  • commenced a project with the University of Sydney investigating the stress hormone (cortisol) levels in koalas impacted by clearing activities.

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 12: 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. We routinely offset 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. We ensure 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). Our 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 2016‑17.
(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 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.

All our activities are carried out 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 2016‑17 and this included the preparation of a Species Impact Statement for the western portion of the proposed upgrade.

We continue to liaise with Northern Beaches Council, the Office of Environment and Heritage, and the Royal Botanic Gardens to ensure the proposal avoids or minimises 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. Our consultants routinely submit records for all threatened species including M. angusii to the Office of Environment and Heritage.

Marine pollution response

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

  • transition of the Marine Pollution Response Unit directly within Maritime division. This has transitioned responsibility from Transport for NSW
  • support for the national leadership in marine pollution response and hosted the national exercise in 2016‑17. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority highlighted the strength of NSW's capability in marine pollution response
  • support on environmental issues with a significant focus on regional responses to marine incidents
  • delivering marine pollution response training regional exercises and a state response team workshop to strengthen capability.

Exercises included:

  • conducting more than 23 marine pollution response training courses and exercises, which were attended by 679 NSW participants and 159 Roads and Maritime employees
  • north coast oil spill exercise in Coffs Harbour on 13 July 2016
  • equipment deployment exercise at Tweed Heads on 15 July 2016
  • state and national exercise held in Newcastle on 10 August 2016
  • equipment deployment exercise held at Port Macquarie on 7 December 2016
  • equipment deployment exercise held at Moama on 30 March 2017
  • multi-agency exercise in Moama on 21 May 2017.

6.4 Sustainability performance


We initiated a Social Procurement Strategy to achieve social and economic objectives through procurement. The strategy includes Aboriginal businesses, disability, social enterprises and small businesses. It will use procurement processes and purchasing power to generate positive social and economic outcomes and efficient delivery of goods, services and works.

A key achievement has been the implementation of the NSW Aboriginal Participation in Construction (APiC) policy on the Pacific Highway upgrade. Aboriginal participation has increased by five per cent in the past three years on the Pacific Highway. More than half of the Aboriginal workforce have gained experience working on multiple sections of the highway and attained a certificate or qualification.

Water savings

We reduced our water use by more than 20,000 kilolitres36. This was a result of:

  • upgrading offices and relocating employees to more water efficient buildings over the past two years including new and re-fitted sites located in Rozelle, Milsons Point, Parramatta and Wagga Wagga
  • transfer of motor registries to Service NSW and modification of reporting practices on water usage of leased sites.
  1. Further information on the performance of our operational properties against this measure can be sited in
    Transport for NSW's Resource Efficiency Policy (GREP) Statement of Compliance.

Energy savings37

Total energy consumption reduced by three per cent in 2015‑16 and by around 20 per cent since 2012‑13. The 2015‑16 Roads and Maritime statement of compliance for the NSW Government Resource Efficiency Policy, outlines how we are on track to meet the energy efficiency targets of the policy.

One component of energy consumption is electricity use. Our total electricity use rose slightly from last year, however this increase was compensated by a three per cent increase in the purchase of GreenPower38. The reported increase of 0.42 per cent was the result of continued improvements in energy reporting practices. Electricity data is now being received for a greater number of accounts including a new pedestrian bridge and tunnel.

  1. Roads and Maritime energy and greenhouse accounts include carbon savings and include operation of the M5 East Tunnel from December 2011 onwards. Electricity, fuel and greenhouse gas data for the agency is reported 12 months in arrears to allow for receipt and verification of invoiced energy consumption data. Total electricity use for the agency includes electricity consumption for Roads and Maritime properties (Transport for NSW's Resource Efficiency Policy (GREP) Statement of Compliance excludes electricity consumption in Roads and Maritime properties).
  2. GreenPower is renewable energy sourced from the sun, wind, water and waste that energy companies purchase
    on behalf of businesses and households.

Reducing energy use from traffic lights

In 2004-05 we started using light-emitting diode (LED) traffic signals. Since 2012 it has been our policy to only use LED lanterns in any new installation and on any major signal replacement project. The signals are also dimmed at night, saving further power. Despite an increase of around 15 per cent in the total number of traffic signals since 2004-05, overall electricity consumption has reduced by 67 per cent (Figure 13).

Figure 13: Electricity use in traffic signals

Carbon and greenhouse gas emissions reduction

During the reporting period, our greenhouse gas emissions decreased to 143,356 t CO2-e from 148,764 t CO2-e, a 3.6 per cent decrease on the previous reporting period (Figure 14). This has been achieved primarily through reducing liquid fuel use (diesel, petrol, and ethanol-blended petrol) in our light and heavy vehicle fleets and improvements in the greenhouse emissions associated with our electricity use. We also purchased six per cent GreenPower electricity as part of major electricity supply contracts, which also contributed to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Figure 14: Greenhouse gas emissions39

  1. Roads and Maritime energy and greenhouse accounts include operation of the M5 East Tunnel from December 2011 onwards.

Waste reduction

Our agency purchases and uses large quantities of raw and manufactured materials and non-construction related goods and services. Our objective, as outlined in the Roads and Maritime Services Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2015-19, is to reduce the impact of this use by minimising consumption 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 13 shows the waste recovery rates for the three main waste streams generated as part of the Road Maintenance Program during 2016‑17. Our waste recovery rates continue to exceed the NSW Government's waste recovery targets.

We have developed comprehensive technical guidance to assist our employees and contractors to better understand how materials can be reused or recycled. In 2016‑17 we developed a technical guide for the management of road construction and maintenance wastes. This guide promotes early planning to minimise resource consumption and waste generation and to maximise the potential for reuse and recycling. The result of these actions is that some key wastes have achieved 100 per cent reuse at points during the year and all targeted recycling rates have been exceeded.

Table 13: Waste recovery rates
Waste type Roads and Maritime waste recovery rates 2015‑16 (%) Roads and Maritime waste recovery rates 2016‑17 (%) Roads and Maritime target (%) NSW Government waste recovery targets by 2021-22 (%)
Virgin excavated natural material/fill 92 98 95 80
Concrete 86 94 90 80
Asphalt 97 97 90 80

6.5 Community

Liveable communities

The Centre for Urban Design provides design advice on all projects in our agency. This ensures that good connectivity, accessibility and high quality built environments are achieved for customers and the community. The centre also provides advisory services to whole-of-government urban design groups and produces guidelines and standards for the public sector.

In 2016‑17 we:

  • provided training on Beyond the Pavement urban design policy
  • contributed to planning and design of new wharves in Sydney Harbour including Chiswick, Cockatoo Island and Milsons Point which were completed this year
  • supported regional and freight and motorway projects undertaken by private sector partners through stewardship maintenance contracts
  • published a guideline on tunnel urban design to improve customer experience
  • contributed to planning and design of cycleway access improvement projects on the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • developed an Aboriginal art strategy for the Pacific Highway with artwork to be installed at Nambucca and the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade project
  • supported landscape architecture industry forums including the Connecting to Country Aboriginal community cultural awareness teaching program to explore how Aboriginal heritage can influence the built and natural environment
  • supported ‘Making the most of Major Infrastructure' event delivered in collaboration between state and local government and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects
  • represented the agency on the Remembrance Driveway committee, including design inputs for the Sir Roden Cutler VC Interchange upgrade located at Prestons
  • convened design review panels with NSW Planning and Environment, Office of the Government Architect for WestConnex, NorthConnex and the Sydney Harbour Bridge Cycle Access projects.

Heritage including Aboriginal cultural heritage

Heritage outreach and conservation

The Environment Branch heritage team took advantage of a number of opportunities throughout the year to engage the community and promote and celebrate heritage including:

  • a public presentation on the history and development of the State Heritage Register listed Gladesville Bridge was held at Ryde Library for the local community in July 2016. This was well attended and inspired a lively discussion with the community who reflected on what the bridge means to them
  • completing digitisation of archival 16mm film collection. These films, which date from 1928, covered major project construction, maintenance works technical instruction films, plus numerous road safety television commercials from the 1960s and 1970s. Twenty Wise Old Owl road safety commercials were digitised in time for the 50th anniversary of their first screening at Christmas 1966. All digitised material is available for viewing in the RMS Road Projects channel on YouTube
  • a public presentation was held at Ashfield Library in February 2017 on the topic of the historic 1943 aerial photography of wartime Sydney.

Heritage and Conservation Register

Our Heritage and Conservation Register contained 392 heritage assets including historic roadways, archaeological sites and historic properties. The most common group of items on the register is the collection of timber, metal and concrete bridges, which represent more than 70 per cent of listed heritage assets.

All assets on the register are maintained in accordance with requirements of the Heritage Act 1977 and the Office of Environment and Heritage's State Agency Heritage Guide. We manage this register through the Office of Environment and Heritage online State Heritage Web Application. This ensures that information about heritage assets is up to date and available to the public via the State Heritage Inventory.

The State Agency Heritage Guide recognises that it is not always practicable for agencies to conserve all heritage assets. In 2016, we removed 12 items from the register to allow for upgraded or new infrastructure. These were:

  • Biggara Bridge
  • Lansdowne Bridge over Mulwaree Ponds
  • ten properties in Haberfield.

Aboriginal cultural heritage

We have continued to provide guidance and direction to the Office of Environment and Heritage in the drafting of standalone Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation. The proposed legislation would improve the way that Aboriginal cultural heritage is managed in NSW and would ensure that Aboriginal people have a greater say in how their heritage is conserved.

As a member of the Interagency Working Group for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Reform, our agency contributed practical and extensive knowledge based on project experience, about how the current system under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1977 could be improved.

We also conducted works and activities in accordance with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Consultation and Investigation Procedure and on implementing appropriate standards of assessment and reporting.

Technical guidance on heritage

The Heritage Committee held four quarterly meetings during 2016‑17. The committee provided technical guidance and feedback to the agency about the management and appreciation of heritage assets and ways to appropriately manage its impacts on heritage items and places as a result of infrastructure development and routine works.

Key projects brought before the committee this year included:

  • WestConnex
  • Windsor Bridge replacement project
  • Alexandria to Moore Park upgrade
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge Access projects.

The committee included external members representing the Heritage Division, Office of Environment and Heritage, the National Trust of Australia (NSW), Engineers Australia and the Royal Australian Historical Society. The committee provided input from key internal members representing asset, engineering services, urban design and environment.

Heritage outcomes on projects

We have a legal and corporate responsibility to manage assets with heritage value in a culturally sensitive, appropriate, practical and cost effective manner. Some of the positive heritage outcomes of the past year include:

  • completion of conservation work on the 1917 Anzac Parade Obelisk following its removal in 2014. The Obelisk was relocated to the State Heritage Register listed Moore Park in January 2017 following consultation with Centennial Parklands, the RSL and the City of Sydney. The works were completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the Obelisk on 15 March 2017
  • a National Trust of Australia (NSW) heritage award for restoration works to Mitchell's Causeway near Mt Victoria in the conservation landscape category. The award recognises our efforts to sensitively maintain the 1832 convict built structure following the principles of the Burra Charter to carry out only as much work as necessary to mitigate against further deterioration.

We also contributed to the Grand Canyon Track Restoration Project in the Blue Mountains by donating a stockpile of sandstone blocks from the eastern approach of the old Pyrmont Bridge for use on the walking tracks. The project was carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and won the National Trust of Australia (NSW) 2017 Landscape Conservation Award and the NSW Parks and Leisure Australia 2017 Leisure Facility of the Year award.

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