We have a responsibility to make public certain information in accordance with the Project’s conditions of approval under the Victorian Environment Effects Act 1978 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
These approval conditions affect the Connections Project as a whole.
Victorian Environment Effects Act 1978
We are required to follow six environmental conditions, outlined in decisions made by the Victorian Minister for Planning in April 2009 and July 2011. These decisions stated the project did not need an Environmental Effects Statement under the Environment Effect Act 1978. The conditions are summarised below:
- Condition One: Environmental Management Framework. The project was required to prepare a Construction-Environmental Management Framework prior to any works involving the removal of native vegetation or direct construction impacts on wetlands or natural waterways. It will also assess potential impacts on flora and fauna.
- Condition Two: Expert Review Panel. An Expert Review Panel (ERP) was to be formed to provide advice on hydrological and related ecological changes due to the implementation of the Connections Project. Dr Terry Hillman (an ecologist with extensive knowledge of the Murray Darling Basin, rivers and floodplains) and Dr Jane Roberts (vegetation ecologist for floodplains, rivers and wetlands) were selected to be on the panel by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change.
- Condition Three: Environmental Framework for Wateer Managment. The Connections Project was required to prepare a framework for the protection of aquatic and riparian ecological values through the management of water allocations and flows within the modified GMID system.
- Condition Four: Ecological Assessment Report. An ecological assessment report needs to be prepared to describe the ecological consequences of hydrological changes arising from the Connections Project for the Murray River, Goulburn River and Barmah Forest Ramsar Site. This report was completed in February 2011, and has subsequently been submitted and approved by the Secretary of the DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment).
- Condition Five: Environmental Watering Plans. Environmental Watering Plans need to be prepared for at risk waterways and wetlands prior to modified irrigation infrastructure being operated near these sites. The plans need to be approved by the Victorian Minister for Water following advice from the Expert Review Panel. Plans affecting matters of national environmental significance also require Commonwealth approval. More information and links to Environmental Watering Plans can be found here.
- Condition Six: Publically Available Information. Final advice from the Expert Review Panel on the Environmental Framework for Water Management, Ecological Assessment Report and environmental watering plans needed to be made publically available. These documents are available here.
Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
The Connections Project was approved as a controlled action under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in May 2010, and is subject to 12 approval conditions.
The action that was approved was “the modified operation of the fully modernised Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.”
The Connections Project was assessed by way of a Public Environment Report which takes into account:
- Wetlands of international importance (sections 16 and 17B)
- Listed threatened species and communities (sections 18 and 18A)
- Listed migratory species (sections 20 and 20A).
The Connections Project is projected to return up to 279 GL on an annual long term average to rivers and wetlands including the Murray River and Ramsar Wetlands, delivering the water at the right times for the best environmental outcomes.