March 2019

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Summary of document

The Environment Effects Statement (EES) summary report provides an outline of key information in the EES report which is an evaluation of the potential environmental, social, and planning aspects of the project, and the approach to managing the impacts.

The EES was supported by a range of technical studies that identified and assessed the potential effects of the project and provide guidance on mitigation measures. These documents can be found on the planning section of the website.

The EES summary report includes detail about the following topics:

Overview of North East Link

North East Link is Victoria’s largest ever road project. North East Link provides a new freeway-standard connection between the M80 Ring Road and an upgraded Eastern Freeway, completing the missing link in Melbourne’s metropolitan ring road. It will give the city a fully completed orbital connection for the first time. The project includes Victoria’s longest twin road tunnel and also delivers Melbourne’s first dedicated high-speed busway, new public open space and extensive walking and cycling links.

Project objectives and principles

North East Link aims to deliver substantial transport, economic and liveability benefits. The project has been designed to support business and jobs growth in Melbourne’s north, east and southeast, and to improve cross-city connectivity and address critical traffic, freight and amenity issues.

High-level project objectives guiding the development of North East Link are focused on:

  • improving connections and access for business
  • improving connections and access for residents
  • improving freight efficiency and industrial growth
  • improving safety and reducing local congestion for communities.

Guiding principles have been defined to ensure that the project:

  • minimises impacts on communities
  • minimises impacts on environmental and cultural assets
  • minimises impacts during the project’s construction
  • uses resources efficiently.

The need for North East Link

Melbourne’s unprecedented population growth is increasing the demand for travel around the city. To remain a liveable, productive and competitive city – where residents have good access to jobs and services and business have good access to customers, suppliers and workers – Melbourne’s transport network must provide reliable travel options and choices. This includes strong connectivity for cross-city travel, not just travel to and from the CBD.

North East Link seeks to address three critical transport-related challenges:

  • poor cross-city movements
  • inefficient freight movement between Melbourne’s north and south-east
  • congestion and heavy vehicles on local and arterial roads
  • improved liveability and thriving communities in the north-east.

A detailed examination of these challenges and North East Link’s contribution to addressing them is set out in the North East Link business case, which can be viewed on the planning section of our website.

Benefits of North East Link

North East Link would deliver significant transport and traffic improvements, along with substantial benefits for businesses, commuters, communities and the wider economy. As business and freight users would receive a large proportion of these benefits, the project is expected to result in strong productivity gains across the Melbourne and Victorian economies, stimulating economic activity and creating new jobs.

Traffic and transport improvements

North East Link is planned to be a safe and efficient connection for up to 135,000 vehicles a day by 2036, reducing travel times through the north-east and across the city, drawing trucks away from the arterial road network and stopping ‘rat-runs’ along congested north-south roads. The project is expected to deliver significant positive transport outcomes, including:

  • redistribution of traffic away from local and arterial roads
  • less congestion at existing bottlenecks
  • faster travel times across the north-east
  • large decreases in the number of trucks using arterial roads in the north-east each day
  • faster bus travel times along the Eastern Freeway
  • faster and more reliable travel times for freight
  • new and upgraded walking and cycling paths
  • improved road network performance.

More productive businesses

North East Link would deliver direct benefits to businesses in Melbourne’s north, north-east and southeast by improving their access to other parts of the city and to major freight and export gateways.

North East Link would also improve access for businesses to a larger pool of workers, including providing better access to the La Trobe National Employment and Innovation Cluster (NEIC). The North East Link business case estimated that the project would give businesses in the north-east access to an additional 62,000 workers and create around 5500 new jobs.

More competitive and efficient supply chains

Better cross-city connections would provide the basis for a range of supply chain improvements and efficiencies, which would reduce transport costs for businesses. These savings would flow through to lower consumer prices, as well as generating productivity benefits across the wider economy.

Greater accessibility for households

North East Link would reduce congestion and improve travel times, improving residents’ access to employment opportunities, expanding the range and number of jobs available and boosting household income levels – particularly in the city’s outer suburbs where access to these opportunities is restricted.

Liveable communities and neighbourhoods

More efficient links between the north, east and south-east of Melbourne would reduce the reliance on local and arterial roads by removing non-local traffic and improve residents’ access to important local destinations such as schools, recreational facilities and parks.

New ‘green’ land bridges

The construction of 5 land bridges over North East Link between Grimshaw Street and Lower Plenty Road in Watsonia would create approximately 8,500 m² of ‘green’ public open space.

The land bridges would be designed in response to the project’s Urban Design Strategy.

New and upgraded walking and cycling links

North East Link would deliver around 25km of new and upgraded walking and cycling links, providing better and safer connections between residential areas and to the inner city.

New dedicated busway

A new dedicated busway would provide full-time, completely segregated bus lanes between Doncaster Road and Hoddle Street – a significant improvement on the existing arrangements for buses travelling along the Eastern Freeway.

The new express capacity would allow more frequent services on the 4 routes expected to use the busway. Travel times for buses running along the Eastern Freeway would improve by up to 30% with North East Link.

Developing North East Link

Extensive investigations, assessments and technical studies have been conducted to identify the best corridor, alignment and configuration for North East Link. Community and stakeholder contributions have also strongly influenced the design and development of the project.

North East Link reference project

The reference project represents a feasible way for the project to be designed, constructed and operated. The reference project provided the basis for the impact assessments conducted for the EES.

The reference project is not the final design for North East Link. The project contractors could make further refinements provided these changes meet the approved project objectives, satisfy the Environmental Performance Requirements (EPRs) set for the project and are within the designated project boundary.

Planning for North East Link

Planning for North East Link has been informed by stringent and comprehensive environmental impact assessments that have incorporated community input and feedback received during the development of the EES.

Requirement for an EES

North East Link is being assessed under Victoria’s Environment Effects Act 1978, which provides for the assessment of proposed projects that could have a significant effect on the environment.

In February 2018, the Minister for Planning determined that the proponent for North East Link must prepare an EES to inform the Minister’s assessment of the project.

In June 2018, the Minister published Scoping Requirements setting out the specific environmental matters to be investigated and documented in the North East Link EES.

The EES process

Victoria’s EES process is rigorous and transparent and is designed to ensure that major projects are designed, constructed and operated to minimise adverse environmental and community impacts.

An EES does not recommend or approve a project. The EES identifies and assesses the potential environmental effects of the project, including those associated with temporary and permanent structures, proposed construction methods and operational requirements.

The EES process also provides opportunities for members of the public to make submissions about the project.

Environmental Performance Requirements (EPRs)

North East Link would be delivered in accordance with a detailed set of EPRs that set out the minimum environmental objectives and outcomes the project must achieve across its design, construction and operation phases – irrespective of the final design selected for the project.

They include requirements to comply with regulations and guidelines set by government and statutory authorities; achieve specific levels or limits; meet recognised standards; and/or adopt industry best-practice or well-tested approaches and methods. Some EPRs incorporate project-specific commitments to achieve particular objectives or thresholds.

A full list of the EPRs proposed for North East Link is provided in Chapter 27 Environmental Management Framework.

Assessing and managing the project’s risks and impacts

Each specialist investigation undertaken for the North East Link EES has adopted the following approach:

  • establishing a study area and identifying existing conditions
  • assessing risk
  • assessing impacts
  • avoiding, mitigating and managing impacts.

Community input

In preparing the North East Link EES, NELP has actively sought input from residents, businesses, community groups and other stakeholders to assist in identifying potential adverse impacts and refining the project design and EPRs to avoid, minimise or better manage these impacts.

In some instances, specialists engaged directly with stakeholders, using approaches such as meetings with local councils and community groups, online surveys, workshops with residents and attendance at information sessions to better understand community concerns and refine their responses and recommendations.

Project approvals

Victorian approvals

The key approvals required under Victorian legislation for the project to proceed are:

  • amendments to the Banyule, Boroondara, Manningham, Nillumbik, Whitehorse, Whittlesea and Yarra planning schemes under the Planning and Environment Act 1987
  • works approval to install a road tunnel ventilation system under the Environment Protection Act 1970.

In addition, where an EES is required under the Environment Effects Act 1978, the project proponent must also prepare a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

A number of other approvals are potentially required under Victorian legislation for the project to proceed, including consents, licences and permits in relation to the Road Management Act 2004, Water Act 1989, Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, Wildlife Act 1975 and the Heritage Act 2017.

Commonwealth approvals

Part of North East Link would be located on Commonwealth land (at Simpson Barracks in Watsonia).

More widely, the project has the potential to impact on Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

A Draft Public Environment Report (PER) has been prepared by NELP to assess North East Link’s potential impacts on listed threatened species, listed migratory birds and Commonwealth land.

North East Link elements, features and activities

M80 Ring Road to northern portal

From the M80 Ring Road at Plenty Road and the Greensborough Bypass at Plenty River Drive, North East Link would extend to the northern tunnel portal near Blamey Road using a combination of above, below and at surface road sections. New road interchanges would be provided at the M80 Ring Road and Grimshaw Street

Northern portal to southern portal

At the northern portal of the tunnel, the road would transition into twin tunnels that connect to Lower Plenty Road via a new interchange before travelling under residential areas, Banyule Flats and the Yarra River to a new interchange at Manningham Road. The tunnel would then continue to the southern portal located south of the Veneto Club.

Eastern Freeway

From around Hoddle Street in the west through to Springvale Road in the east, modifications to the Eastern Freeway would include widening to accommodate future traffic volumes and new dedicated bus lanes for the Doncaster Busway. A new interchange at Bulleen Road would connect North East Link to the Eastern Freeway.

A sustainable approach

North East Link would aim to be a leader in sustainability by pioneering new approaches and integrating sustainability principles and features into the project’s planning, design, construction and operation. These include:

  • using resource efficiently
  • protecting urban ecosystems
  • contributing to communities
  • supporting local economies
  • reducing carbon emissions.

Assessing North East Link’s impacts

The progressive development of North East Link has resulted in a reference project that would minimise major adverse impacts. The technical studies conducted for the EES have assessed the project’s potential risks and the likelihood of adverse impacts occurring, and identified recommended measures to avoid, minimise or manage these impacts.

The main impacts anticipated as a result of the construction and operation of North East Link include:

  • Transport – during construction and operation
  • Amenity and wellbeing – air quality, noise and vibration
  • Business
  • Social and community
  • Land use planning
  • Landscape and visual
  • Heritage – Aboriginal cultural heritage and historical cultural heritage
  • Ground movement
  • Groundwater
  • Contamination and soil
  • Surface water
  • Ecology
  • Planted trees

Managing the project’s impacts

North East Link would be designed, constructed, operated and maintained in accordance with an Environmental Management Framework (EMF), which provides a comprehensive and transparent means for managing the environmental impacts of the project.

The EMF and EPRs would require the project to be designed, constructed and operated in accordance with an Environmental Management System that conforms to Australian standards. The EMF would contain policies, plans, procedures and actions to establish a systematic method for managing the project’s environmental aspects.

Compliance with the EMF and EPRs would be enforced by NELP on behalf of the Victorian Government through contractual arrangements with the contractors appointed to deliver the project.

The proposed EMF and EPRs for the project are exhibited as Chapter 27 of the EES.

Consulting with the community

Extensive community and stakeholder engagement has played an important part in shaping North East Link and would continue to be a critical feature of the project as it progresses.

To meet the Minister for Planning’s Scoping Requirements for the EES, NELP prepared and implemented an engagement plan to familiarise the public with the reference project for North East Link, explain the EES process and provide information about formal avenues for participating in the impact assessment process and making submissions on the EES. The plan was published on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website in June 2018.

Following the conclusion of the EES process, the application of the EPRs would require the project contractors for North East Link to prepare and implement a Communications and Community Engagement Plan for the construction and operation phases of the project.

Next steps in the EES process

The North East Link EES was on public exhibition for 40 business days from 10 April 2019 to 7 June 2019. During this time, members of the public were invited to inspect the EES and make written submissions about any matters described in the EES.

More information about the EES can be found in the planning section of the website.