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These ministerial guidelines are made under s.10 of the Environment Effects Act 1978 and apply to works proposed as part of the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL).
These guidelines supplement the requirements of the Environment Effects Act as it concerns works proposed as part of the SRL program.
The guidelines set out the process for:
- determining the need for an Environment Effects Statement (EES)
- scoping an EES
- preparing an EES
- public review of an EES
- considering public submissions; and
- making a final assessment of the environmental effects of SRL works.
The guidelines incorporate the following principles:
- a systems approach to identifying, assessing and managing potential effects of SRL works on interacting environmental elements and processes to ensure that interdependent responses are considered;
- a risk-based approach to ensure the assessment of the effects of SRL works, including the extent of investigations, is proportionate to the significance of effects
- an integrated perspective of the relationship between and significance of different effects to inform decision-making;
- the need to assess the consistency of proposed works with principles and objectives of ecologically sustainable development.
1.1 Suburban Rail Loop
Announced by the Victorian Government in August 2018, the SRL is conceived as a new orbital rail line that will connect the existing radial rail network from the Frankston Line in the east to the Werribee Line in the west (Figure 1).
The SRL program of investments and policy initiatives will underpin Victoria’s growth trajectory for future generations and catalyse a transformational shift in Melbourne’s urban structure – from a monocentric city to a polycentric network of major precincts. The precincts will present distinct identities and diverse residential and employment opportunities.
Due to its large scale and mix of integrated transport and precinct planning and development objectives, the SRL program will be comprised of a series of discrete but related projects. Works will be designed, assessed, and constructed over an extended timeframe.
This program of delivery has practical implications for the administration of the Environment Effects Act:
- an EES for the entire suite of SRL works is impractical because the selection, design and assessment of individual SRL projects will be determined over a long period
- when works in an early SRL project are subject to an EES, in accordance with these guidelines, there is likely to be limited information about the design, location or effects of later SRL project works
- the potential environmental effects of SRL works are likely to vary widely.
The SRL program will be staged over many years. The announced first stage is the south-east segment from Cheltenham to Box Hill. Government has publicly committed to commence construction of Stage One in 2022. While the SRL concept comprises a complete orbital rail solution (Figure 1, overleaf), the SRLA is responsible for delivery of the eastern section between Cheltenham and Melbourne Airport. These guidelines apply only to the SRLA delivered works. The timing, staging approach, route and construction method for the eastern section of SRL north of Box Hill will be determined by SRLA in due course, in accordance with prevailing government policies and priorities.
Figure 1: Suburban Rail Loop
The SRL program will likely require flexibility for some works to proceed ahead of the bulk of an SRL project’s works. This may be the case even where the potential environmental effects of SRL works are being or could be assessed in an EES.
Initial works are defined as works that may proceed independent of an SRL project’s primary planning approval. Initial works might include relocating or upgrading utilities, site clearance or remediation, building demolition and ground improvement. Approval for initial works does not infer approval of works subject to assessment through an EES.
If the proponent of an SRL project wishes to seek approvals for initial works independently of a potential EES, the initial works need to be excluded from the works that the Minister determines require an EES.
The Minister will typically make this determination in circumstances where the Minister is satisfied that:
- the environmental effects of the initial works alone are not significant
- the cumulative effects of the initial works and the balance of works are capable of being assessed in an EES.
1.2 SRL environment effects statements
The Environment Effects Act provides for assessment of proposed works capable of significant effect on the environment. The EES process provides for the analysis of potential effects and the means of avoiding, minimising and managing adverse effects. An EES will be an integrated response to SRL works that provides for public scrutiny of the project and its potential effects.
EES objectives and principles
The general objective of the assessment process is to provide for the transparent, integrated and timely assessment of the environmental effects of works capable of having a significant effect on the environment.
Specific objectives are to provide:
- transparent assessment of potential environmental effects of SRL works, in the context of applicable legislation and policy, including principles and objectives of ecologically sustainable development
- timely and integrated assessments of SRL works to inform relevant decisions, in the context of coordinated statutory processes
- proponent accountability for investigating potential environmental and related effects of SRL works, as well as for implementing effective environmental management measures
- public access to information regarding potential environmental effects as well as fair opportunities for participation in assessment processes by stakeholders and the public; and
- a basis for monitoring and evaluating the effects of SRL works to inform environmental management of the works and improve environmental knowledge.
1.3 Other statutory processes
To facilitate timely decision-making, the EES process and related statutory approval procedures are often coordinated.
This may include:
- seeking accreditation of the EES as the required assessment of a controlled action under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
- coordinating public notification of statutory applications in conjunction with advertising and exhibition of the EES
- coordinating inquiry procedures under the Environment Effects Act with equivalent procedures under other Victorian legislation
- providing specific advice in the minister’s assessment to inform relevant statutory and other decisions, under other Victorian legislation.
Page last updated: 13/06/23