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Chapter 9 - Environmental performance

Environmental performance

The Defence Environmental Policy outlines five strategic aims:

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

Land management

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

During 2017–18, Base Services contracts continued to provide an opportunity for an integrated service delivery approach to land management and environmental protection, thereby preventing cumulative adverse impacts on environmental and heritage values. Defence identified a number of environmental activities that would move from unplanned and ad hoc to scheduled and planned approaches, with a focus on bushfire monitoring and management, water management and management of native, domestic, feral and invasive species.

In November 2017 Defence and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service developed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen cooperative arrangements between the agencies and ensure better preparedness for bushfire events affecting Defence properties. In 2018 Defence commenced negotiations with other state and territory bushfire management agencies to replicate the core arrangements of the existing memorandum of understanding. Defence continues to update and develop bushfire management plans under the revised 2018 policy setting.

Defence continues to engage the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to undertake land management at Yampi Sound Training Area in the West Kimberley. This includes monitoring for threatened species, mosaic burning to promote biodiversity and engaging Traditional Owners in land management activities.

In 2018 Defence completed the rollout of the new Garrison Estate Management System. The Garrison Estate Management System is a single integrated system to manage the Defence estate and service delivery and support the Defence Estate Life Cycle. An initial upload of data on the presence of threatened species and biosecurity risks across the Defence estate is being progressively updated and refined.

Waste management

Defence has developed a number of specific waste management targets, including:

  • minimising the amount of material from Defence being diverted to landfill
  • reducing consumption of natural resources
  • reducing waste management and disposal costs through waste streaming.

Defence continues to focus on meeting these targets through waste management service delivery rationalisation. During 2017–18, Defence removed over 45,000 tonnes of waste from the domestic Defence estate. By diverting 25 per cent of its waste away from an Australian landfill, Defence avoided the release of 10,651.25 tonnes of CO2-e into the atmosphere.

With Australia’s recycling industry under significant pressure, Defence continues to work with both Government and industry partners to identify new uses for recyclable materials and to improve the quality of recycled products.

Defence is piloting a waste optimisation program which aims to manage the waste streams coming from the Defence estate. Defence has also signed up to two national product stewardship schemes—the Tyre Stewardship Scheme and the Fluoro Cycle Scheme.

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 and resilience, Defence remains focused on ensuring energy supply effectiveness, infrastructure maintenance and usage management.

In 2016–17 [2] total energy consumption decreased by 13.17 per cent compared with 2015–16. This decrease can be largely attributed to a 16.41 per cent decrease in transport energy usage (operational fuel consumption). Stationary energy consumption (electricity and gas) also decreased by 0.13 per cent. This is attributed to a 0.56 per cent decrease in electricity usage across the estate.

Defence has committed to a 10-year Defence estate renewable energy program to install large-scale solar systems across the Defence estate. The renewable energy program will provide an energy security alternative in conjunction with other security measures, such as central emergency supply power and generators.

Note: [2] 2017–18 reporting on Defence energy consumption is delayed due to the extensive collation and data analysis required. This reporting is scheduled for completion in early 2019 and will feature in the 2018–19 Defence annual report.

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 in 2017–18. No Defence projects were formally assessed under the Act during the period 2017–18.

Defence fuel supply chain reform and initiatives

During 2017–18, the process of hazard identification and risk assessment has continued. Defence stabilised the Fuel Network and closed all but three of the 140 highest risks identified. A further 16 per cent of the remaining risks have been identified as closed, and any priority risks identified through normal business will close (as part of the Defence Fuel Transformation Program Tranche 1) over the next three years.

The optimisation of the network has commenced. A number of sites have outsourced the Operating Agent functions (the Operating Agent is the senior person who knows, understands and operates a Defence Fuel Installation on a day-to-day basis and has direct line supervision of staff in the Defence Fuel Installation). Other sites were closed and made safe. To underpin the transformation of the network, the rollout of the Defence Fuel Management System has commenced. In addition, Defence has developed a new fuel network training regime and has commenced rollout of the first of a number of associated courses.

The Defence Fuel Transformation Program progressed through the Defence and Government approval process during 2017–18. In June 2018 the National Security Committee granted approval for Tranche 1. Defence has also been working over the past year to establish the management structures to commence execution of the program. The primary focus of Tranche 1 is continued reduction of network risk and increase in transformational activities.


Defence spent $23.6 million (GST inclusive) on water and $12.6 million on sewage at Defence-owned facilities in 2016–17.[3] Defence has installed 387 water meters to monitor water use at major Defence facilities.

Note: [3] 2017–18 reporting on Defence water expenditure is delayed due to the extensive collation and data analysis required. This reporting is scheduled for completion in early 2019 and will feature in the 2018–19 Defence annual report.

Environmental improvement initiatives and review


Exercise TALISMAN SABER is a biennial major military exercise that involves Australian and international armed forces operating across various locations throughout Australia. TALISMAN SABER took place from late June 2017. Environmental planning included an environmental assessment and public environment report in order to comply with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. For the next exercise, to be held in July 2019, Defence will conduct environmental assessments and community consultation for all aspects of the exercise. Consultation will include engagement with local, state and Commonwealth governments, property owners, Traditional Owners, community groups and the public through face-to-face meetings and workshops and a range of online platforms. Environmental assessments will consider Defence’s obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in addition to relevant state or local laws as appropriate.

Remediation programs

Defence is undertaking ongoing contamination and explosive ordnance waste assessments and remediation across priority areas on the Defence estate. This includes environmental remediation works at Maribyrnong in Victoria and remediation of explosive ordnance waste at multiple Air Weapons Ranges including Salt Ash and Evans Head, New South Wales; and Delamere, 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 and legislative requirements. This has included a refreshed approach aimed at consistency and heritage compliance across the Defence estate.

During 2017–18 Defence worked with government agencies and community groups to provide statutory heritage protection post disposal by the Commonwealth for a range of sites currently in the property disposal planning process, including Bulimba Barracks in Brisbane, Queensland.

In May 2018 Defence provided information to the Department of the Environment and Energy for that department’s five-yearly review of the Commonwealth and National Heritage lists, which is required under Commonwealth heritage legislation.

Land Activities Environmental Management Plan

The Land Activities Environmental Management Plan provides environmental guidance for military activities on the Defence estate and non-defence training areas. It also provides environmental guidance for visiting foreign forces and implementation guidance for the mobile data capture tool. It was trialled in the planning and implementation of exercises TALISMAN SABER 17, HAMEL 18 and CHONG JU 18. The plan was finalised in June 2018.

Pollution Prevention Program

In December 2017 Defence published the updated Pollution Prevention Management Manual. The new manual includes 11 annexed guidelines for managing high-priority pollutants and polluting activities. Defence is developing a firefighting foam transformation program to address environmental risks associated with current and future use of firefighting foams.

Ecologically sustainable development

In 2017–18 the ecologically sustainable development program delivered energy and water efficiency projects to improve the sustainability of the Defence estate and reduce whole-of-life costs. Projects included installation of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, lighting upgrades and water-efficient fittings. The total net whole-of-life savings over the past five years of the program is estimated to be $15 million.

Defence is improving its ability to monitor and report on energy and water consumption and waste disposal. The Resource Data Management System currently collates electricity, water and gas meter data as well as waste volumetric data. The Resource Data Management System assists in the identification of cost-saving opportunities through increased efficiency in electricity, gas and water use. To date, the Resource Data Management System has identified over $1 million in potential savings.

The Smart Infrastructure Manual: Design and Construction, 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.

Climate adaptation

Defence continues to assess future climate risks to the Defence estate and plan appropriate adaptation responses. Defence actively contributes to whole-of-government development of adaptation policy and guidance.

National PFAS Investigation and Management Program

Defence continued to expand the national PFAS (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) Investigation and Management Program. The program is investigating the extent of contamination from the historical use of firefighting foams containing PFAS. The legacy firefighting foam was used worldwide from the 1970s by both civilian and military authorities to suppress liquid fuel fires.

The program of comprehensive detailed environmental investigations—underway at 23 Defence properties, including Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown and Army Aviation Centre Oakey—are undertaken by experienced environmental services providers and are conducted in accordance with the Australian National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure.

The investigation process includes a Preliminary Site Investigation, a Detailed Site Investigation, and if required, a Human Health and/or Ecological Risk Assessment. The information associated with all stages of the environmental investigation forms the basis for a site-specific PFAS Management Area Plan.

Defence provided alternative water supplies to those residents who lived near investigation sites who were reliant on bore water for drinking. Defence also began to implement options for the management and remediation of contaminated water and soil. These ranged from clearance of drains and the installation of water treatment plants to exploring emerging scientific and technical approaches for future application.

Defence worked with Commonwealth, state, territory and local authorities, including the Australian Government’s PFAS Taskforce and the Commonwealth Department of Health, to communicate details of the investigations and the broader management program to local communities.

Feature: Exercise Pacific Protector 2017—Counterproliferation engagement in our national interests