The Victorian Government and Transurban are committed to a sustainable and environmentally sensitive approach to the planning, design and construction of the Western Distributor.
Environmental management is a critical part of any major project. A number of statutory requirements are in place to protect and ensure unavoidable impacts are well managed. The project is being assessed through an Environment Effects Statement (EES) which provides a comprehensive framework for assessing potential social, economic and environmental effects.
The EES will be publicly exhibited and open to submissions in early 2017.
Understanding the existing environment
To inform the EES, specialist studies will be carried out in the project corridor – along the West Gate Freeway and throughout the inner west to help build our understanding of the existing environment, places of heritage value and social uses and assess any impacts from the project.
There are 17 specialist studies being undertaken. Some of the topics include Aboriginal cultural heritage, contamination and spoil management, ecology, historical heritage, water and more.
These studies will identify any potential impacts that need to be considered in decisions about the Western Distributor’s alignment, construction management and ongoing operations.
What we’ve heard so far
Through consultation earlier this year, some of the feedback received included:
- the community would like to ensure the local environmental value is preserved or improved through the project
- a desire to preserve areas of environmental value such as waterways, existing trees and native vegetation
- the need to carefully consider a number of floodplains
- an emphasis on the management and treatment of contaminated soils and consideration of groundwater movement and potential impacts
- a desire to protect public open space, parks and facilities.
What we know
Aboriginal cultural heritage
Areas of potential Aboriginal cultural heritage sensitivity have been identified at the Maribyrnong River, Kororoit Creek, Stony Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek.
As part of the EES, desktop assessment, field studies and consultation with traditional owners and Aboriginal Victoria will inform the development of an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan.
The plan will outline how to manage potential impacts to Aboriginal cultural heritage in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.
Aboriginal Victoria will evaluate the Cultural Heritage Management Plan to ensure Aboriginal cultural heritage, that is identified, is protected and any new discoveries are carefully managed.
The Footscray and Yarraville areas have been a centre of industrial activity for around 150 years. As a result, there is a history of land contamination. A number of sites in this area have been investigated and cleaned up in recent years. There are also a number of sites the Environment Protection Authority Victoria currently monitors.
Dealing with contaminated land is a common part of building major projects. Construction companies are well-equipped and experienced in safely managing contaminated land and spoil and the EES will detail how this will be managed.
Qualified ecologists have provided advice on any significant flora, fauna and native vegetation that could be affected by the Western Distributor.
Because of the long history of intensive disturbance caused by industrial and residential development within the corridor of the Western Distributor, much of the native vegetation and species habitat has been removed. Very small patches of regenerated native vegetation do exist, including:
- Kororoit Creek – woodland line the creek to the north of the West Gate Freeway
- Stony Creek – coastal saltmarsh line the creek between Anderson Reserve and the Stony Creek Backwash, where mangroves are also found
- Moonee Ponds Creek – brackish wetland line the creek south of Dynon Road.
No significant habitat for threatened flora or fauna has been identified within the corridor of the Western Distributor.
There are a number of historical heritage sites within the corridor of the Western Distributor, particularly around the Maribyrnong River.
Many of these sites are linked to the area’s strong industrial and maritime history, including Footscray Wharf, Sims Street Timber Slipways, Lyons Street Explosive Store and an historic swimming area.
As part of the EES, an historical heritage impact assessment will be undertaken which will be informed by existing records and site inspections, in addition to consultation with local councils and Heritage Victoria.
The EES will also outline management strategies to avoid, manage or mitigate any adverse impacts to historical heritage sites associated with the construction or operation of the Western Distributor.
The Western Distributor crosses four key waterways – the Maribyrnong River, Kororoit Creek, Stony Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek.
As part of the planning phase for the Western Distributor, technical specialists will carry out surface water and groundwater investigations including testing the depth and quality of groundwater and surface water modelling to understand the movement of water across the waterway (including the floodplain areas).
In order to protect the health of these waterways a key design objective is to ensure no adverse effects would occur in the floodplain of these waterways. Careful consideration for the location of bridge piers in or near waterways is necessary to manage the risk of flooding.
The EES will assess various water impacts such as groundwater, surface water, drainage and wastewater disposal. The assessment will help develop the design further and inform plans and strategies to manage any adverse impacts.
A sustainable design
Sustainability will be integrated into the development, design and delivery of the Western Distributor to bring economic benefits to the Melbourne region, provide value to the Victorian community and mitigate project environmental impacts, whilst reducing congestion and travel times on the Melbourne transport network.
The project’s urban design guidance makes recommendations for achieving a sustainable road, requiring that issues such as water sensitive design, integrated water management, biodiversity and habitat protection and urban city cooling through the use of green infrastructure are considered and addressed.
To achieve a design that meets the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia’s excellence rating we will embed sustainability initiatives and decision making at all steps throughout the project lifecycle, including:
- better managing resources by reducing waste, reusing materials or using materials with a lower environmental footprint
- finding new ways – including smart technologies – to reduce energy use during design, construction and operations
- reducing the project’s impact on the local environment
- supporting economic development in the Western Distributor corridor by purchasing and hiring locally.
What is next?
As planning progresses, more detailed assessments will be undertaken on environmental matters within the corridor of the Western Distributor to inform the EES. An Environmental Management Framework will also be developed to guide construction and operation phases of the Western Distributor, in order to achieve acceptable environmental and sustainable outcomes.
Designing to avoid impacts
To ensure that the environment is considered throughout the decision making process, the Western Distributor design process will outline a number of objectives, which include criteria to protect environmental and social assets, values and uses.
A holistic approach allows a safe, functional design that also aims to complement land use, different transport modes, local values (social, historical and environmental) and future local community development strategies.
Examples of this include:
- completing thorough research and technical assessments to identify high value areas in order to manage impacts through design and construction
- protecting the environment by avoiding or minimising impacts
- improvements and considerations to noise and air quality
- using existing road space or road reserve where possible
- minimising adverse impacts to creeks and rivers
- minimising impacts to parklands
- appropriate management of contaminated materials
- ensuring environment management plans and best practice construction techniques are utilised.