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The content of an EES will be guided by the scoping requirements and should be prepared in the context of the principles of a systems approach and proportionality to risk.

A systems approach involves the consideration of potentially affected environmental systems and interacting environmental elements and processes. This will enable potential interdependencies to be identified, helping to focus investigations and identify opportunities to avoid, minimise, mitigate or manage adverse effects.

A risk-based approach should be adopted in the assessment of environmental effects so that suitably intensive methods can be applied to accurately assess matters that pose relatively high levels of risk of significant adverse effects and to guide the design of strategies to manage those risks.

Simpler or less comprehensive methods of investigation may be applied to matters that can be shown to involve lower levels of risk.

4.1 Matters to be examined

Description of the project

A clear and sufficiently detailed description of the SRL works is needed to enable the effective assessment of potential environmental effects.

The description should set out (as appropriate):

  • project rationale and objectives
  • location, technology and design of project components
  • site characteristics and surrounding area
  • communities, properties and/or residences that may be affected by the proposal, including a description of the way that they may be affected
  • proposed methods for mitigating adverse environmental effects
  • proposed schedule for project implementation
  • proposed method for delivering the project, including responsibility for construction, operation and where relevant, decommissioning.

The EES is to describe the project in sufficient detail to allow an understanding of all relevant components, processes and development stages and to enable assessment of their likely potential environmental effects.

The EES may assess the effects of a concept or reference design for the project with the ultimate design to be developed later.

Reference project

The EES may adopt a performance-based approach and assess a reference project. The reference project may not be the final design for the SRL works but must demonstrate the technical feasibility of delivering the SRL to meet the Victorian Government’s objectives and achieve acceptable environmental outcomes.

The reference project should nominate a project boundary; articulate the location and configuration of major civil works, track alignment and station architecture; and propose construction methods. The design must allow the potential environmental effects of the works to be assessed and demonstrate the effects can be managed.

Project alternatives

The concept of the SRL has clear public policy support. As such, an EES will not need to justify the selection of the SRL as a means of addressing Melbourne’s transport needs and providing appropriate transport infrastructure (i.e. by comparison with road, or other, infrastructure).

An EES should, however, provide a rationale for the works proposed to deliver the SRL project. In doing so, an EES should include a description of the proponent’s process of screening different works or ways of delivering the SRL project and the planning and design refinements undertaken to arrive at the proposed SRL works subject to assessment in the EES.

Environmental effects

SRL works may give rise to environmental effects through relatively direct cause-effect pathways, or through more complex, indirect pathways.

An EES should provide an assessment of an SRL project’s potential effects on the following matters, including their interactions, where relevant.

In addition, the cumulative effect of a project in combination with other activities may need to be assessed to identify the potential for significant adverse effects from the combined works. Assessment of effects must be consistent with the approved scoping requirements.

Abiotic systems

A priority for an EES is to identify and assess potential changes to physical systems (e.g. the water cycle) resulting from the SRL works. An EES should incorporate accurate modelling of potential system changes, where there is a potential for significant adverse effects.


Assessment of potential effects on ecosystems is a fundamental aspect of an EES. An EES should provide an inventory of existing ecological conditions, as well as an analysis of ecosystem relationships that might be affected by SRL works.

Social systems

An EES needs to assess the social effects of SRL works on communities. Because of the complexity of human behaviour and perceptions, this assessment may need to assess likely scenarios for change and implications of this change, rather than attempting accurate predictions. An EES may therefore need to use a combination of recognised quantitative and qualitative methods to meaningfully assess potential social effects.

Hazards or statutory compliance issues related to human health and amenity that might arise from SRL works, such as noise or air emissions, must also be assessed. Where there may be high levels of risk to health, the EES will need to propose risk avoidance, minimisation, mitigation and management measures, including contingency responses, monitoring and reporting processes.

An EES will need to identify and assess the potential effects of a project on Aboriginal and historical cultural heritage.

Economic systems

An EES will need to assess the SRL works’ potential effects on existing land uses and infrastructure that support current patterns of economic and social activity. Potential project effects on land uses, urban settlements and infrastructure will need to be evaluated in light of relevant planning scheme provisions. Links with other physical, ecological and social and economic effects will also need to be described.

The financial implications of SRL works, such as influence on specific businesses or compensation, will not normally need to be assessed as part of an EES but an EES needs to assess the potential for significant effects on the economic well-being of local areas, the regional and national economies, as well as for key industry sectors.

Types of environmental effects

Cumulative effects

An EES should identify the potential for cumulative effects where SRL works, or project activity, in combination with other proposed projects, including initial SRL works or existing activities in an area, may have an overall significant effect on the same environmental asset. A regional perspective can be helpful in this regard, by putting the potential effects of an SRL project in the wider SRL program context.

The assessment of cumulative impacts from proposed SRL works in combination with future SRL works will necessarily remain at a high level where future works are expressed in conceptual, rather than detailed, terms. However, where it can be ascertained at the time of preparing the EES that potential cumulative effects of multiple SRL projects (built or proposed) may be significant, the potential cumulative effects must be addressed within the EES.

Indirect effects

Indirect effects are separated in space or time from the direct effects of SRL works.

Such effects may arise from inputs (e.g. source materials) to, or consequences of, SRL works.

The extent to which assessment of indirect effects is needed as part of an EES will depend on:

  • whether the effects are reasonably foreseeable
  • the nexus between the project and the effects of concern
  • the capacity to quantify or assess the effects
  • the significance of the effects.

Significance of environmental effects

An EES should provide an analysis of the significance of potential effects.

This analysis may require the integration of several aspects:

  • potential magnitude, extent and duration of changes in the environment
  • Ministerial Guidelines for Assessment of Environmental Effects
  • how sensitive environmental assets are to change
  • relationships/interactions between different effects
  • design or management measures available to avoid or minimise impacts.

4.2 Integrated assessment of environmental performance

An EES will need to provide an integrated assessment of the likely effects of SRL works, with respect to:

  • key requirements or objectives under statutory provisions, including policy
  • best practice techniques and technologies, available within relevant sectors of activity
  • objectives and principles of ecologically sustainable development and environmental protection.

This assessment might involve the use of environmental performance criteria to address particular effects. While some criteria will be available under applicable statutory provisions, criteria for other matters may need to be developed in the specific context of the SRL and its likely effects.

Environmental performance criteria will help guide studies and provide a clear framework for management of environmental effects.

An EES should incorporate an environmental management framework for managing the environmental effects of a project, including:

  • the framework of statutory approvals and agreements that will underpin environmental management plans and measures
  • proposed environmental performance requirements to set environmental monitoring and management actions
  • the environmental management system to be adopted (e.g. based on ISO 14001), including organisational responsibilities and accountabilities
  • an overview of environmental management plans for the construction and operational phases
  • the proposed program for auditing and reporting of environmental performance
  • arrangements for management of and access to baseline and monitoring data, to ensure the transparency and accountability of environmental management as well as to contribute to the improvement of environmental knowledge.

4.3 Consistency with existing provisions

Scoping requirements will indicate the relevant provisions of legislation and regulations, associated public policies, strategies, plans and guidelines, as well as government agreements.

More comprehensive identification of relevant aspects is essential in the course of preparing the EES.

Matters that are the respective responsibility of state, local or Commonwealth governments should be clearly identified.

The EES will need to document consistency with applicable legislation, regulations, statutory policies, strategies, plans, guidelines and agreements.

4.4 EES presentation

It is expected that an EES will comprise: a short, hardcopy summary of the EES; a main report providing a comprehensive response to the scoping requirements; and technical appendices providing details of the study investigations underpinning the main report.

The main EES report should be concise, clear and relevant to the issues and decisions that need to be addressed. It should be analytical rather than encyclopaedic in approach, addressing issues in a depth proportionate to the environmental risk. The report should make extensive use of maps, photographs, diagrams and other graphical methods to illustrate key environmental features, project alternatives, potential effects and proposed responses.

The EES may be supported by an online adaptation that allows readers to interact with the SRL through virtual space and time. The online, digital EES, would enable users to appreciate the project area’s existing environment, the project’s design and the interaction of the two to demonstrate the potential environmental effects of the works and proposed environmental management responses.

Technical appendices should provide details of literature reviews; methods and results of field and laboratory investigations; methods and results of impact assessment studies (e.g. air quality modelling, user surveys), including estimates of the reliability of results; and description of sources of uncertainty. There should be cross-referencing between the main report (and online version, if created) and the supporting appendices.

The proponent must prepare the EES in a format and in places that will enable ready access by interested parties.

4.5 Adequacy of EES for exhibition

The proponent is responsible for preparing an EES that adequately addresses the matters in the scoping requirements and any other relevant issues. These matters need to be sufficiently investigated and clearly documented to enable informed responses by the public and agencies.

The EES should provide as full a statement of the proponent’s case as possible.

There are three basic steps for ensuring the adequacy of an EES for exhibition:

  1. the proponent and its consultants should adopt internal quality assurance procedures
  2. the TRG will review the draft technical studies and draft EES documentation and provide advice to the proponent
  3. the proponent should seek authorisation from the Minister before the EES is exhibited.

In special circumstances, additional steps may be necessary to address quality issues.

The Minister may direct us to appoint expert peer reviewers to provide advice during the development of critical EES studies. The final written advice of expert peer reviewers appointed by us will be made available during the exhibition of the EES and provided to the inquiry.

Page last updated: 13/06/23