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Summary of scoping requirements
On 20 December 2020 the Minister for Planning (the Minister) declared the Suburban Rail Loop Stage One (the project) to be ‘public works’ under section 3(1) of the Environment Effects Act 1978 (EE Act) on the basis that the Minister was satisfied that the public works could reasonably be considered to have or to be capable of having a significant effect on the environment. The declaration was published in the Victorian Government Gazette on 22 December 2020 (no. S 682) and consequently, an environment effects statement (EES) for the project must be prepared.
The purpose of the EES is to describe the proposed project and assess its potential effects on the environment and approaches to mitigation. The EES will inform and seek feedback from the public and stakeholders. The Minister will issue an assessment of the project’s environmental effects to conclude the EES process and inform statutory decision-makers responsible for the project’s approvals.
These scoping requirements set out the matters to be investigated and documented in the EES for the project. These scoping requirements were finalised following consideration of submissions made on the draft scoping requirements during their public exhibition from 26 March to 19 April 2021.
While the scoping requirements are intended to cover all relevant matters, the EES will also address other significant issues that emerge during the EES investigations or through consultation.
Minister's requirements for this EES
A project outline, prepared by the Suburban Rail Loop Authority, was submitted to the Minister for Planning to inform the decision that the project was public works under the EE Act. The decision was made on the basis that the project could ‘reasonably be considered to have or to be capable of having a significant effect on the environment’. The public works order specified the procedures and requirements that are to apply to an EES for the works.
The public works order excluded ‘initial works’ proposed by the Suburban Rail Loop Authority from the requirement for an EES. This means these works can proceed before the EES process is complete, but they are still subject to any statutory approvals required under law. Initial works generally involve utility relocations, new underground powerlines and minor road modifications and ground improvement works at the proposed stabling yard site. These works are described within Schedule 1 of the public works order. The basis for this decision is described in the Minister’s reasons for the order. The cumulative impacts of the initial works and the rest of the project works are to be assessed in the EES.
Suburban Rail Loop EES Guidelines
The Minister for Planning approved the Ministerial guidelines for the assessment of environmental effects of the Suburban Rail Loop (referred to as the Suburban Rail Loop EES Guidelines) in September 2020.
Section 10 of the EE Act provides for the Minister for Planning to make guidelines for any matters he considers expedient to enable the carrying out of the Act. The Suburban Rail Loop EES Guidelines describe environmental assessment processes under the Act to be adopted for projects proposed as part of the Suburban Rail Loop.
An EES for the whole Suburban Rail Loop is impractical because it will be delivered over decades in a series of discrete but related projects. The Suburban Rail Loop EES Guidelines provide a process for individual Suburban Rail Loop projects to be subject to an EES if the proposed works can have a significant effect on the environment.
These scoping requirements provide further detail on the matters to be in investigated in the EES for Suburban Rail Loop Stage One as required by the Minister’s public works order and the Suburban Rail Loop EES Guidelines.