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Environmental management and performance

The following report meets the requirements of section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). It describes our:

  • environmental management approach (including key potential impacts)
  • management activities which accord with the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).

Environmental management approach

Environmental oversight and accountability

We have defined specific role-based accountabilities for those senior managers who hold key environmental obligations under legislation and the Airservices Environmental Management System (EMS). These roles include the CEO and Executive Committee.

Environmental policy

Our Environmental Policy describes our highest level of commitment to reducing environmental impacts, improving environmental performance and embedding sustainability principles. The policy describes specific obligations for the protection and management of key environmental values and issues, including noise, emissions, contamination, water, waste and biodiversity. It focuses the organisation on achieving positive environmental outcomes for our customers,
stakeholders and the community.

Environmental management system

We maintain and continually improve our EMS, in line with ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management. All Airservices sites and operations at Gold Coast Airport and Canberra Airport are ISO 14001 certified.

Our EMS and environmental policy provide a clear framework of hierarchical standards, procedures and controls that set the way we:

  • manage our environmental impacts
  • comply with regulatory obligations
  • achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Key potential environmental impacts arising from our activities, and the way these are managed under the EMS are outlined in the following table.

Key potential environmental impacts and associated EMS control measures and assurance mechanisms

Potential Impact

EMS control measures

Assurance Mechanism

Aircraft noise and emissions impacts from flight path changes

(includes community, wildlife, and social amenity impacts)

Application of mandatory management standard Environmental Management of Changes to Aircraft Operations, which requires:

  • targeted environmental impact and risk assessment of proposed changes
  • seeking the Commonwealth Environment Minister’s advice under the EPBC Act for changes deemed to trigger potential ‘significant impact'
  • iterative flight path design to minimise impacts, using ‘environment by design’ principles.

Social impact analysis and community engagement for proposed changes.

Provision of a Noise Complaint Information Service, which:

  • receives and responds to complaints through a dedicated call centre
  • investigates and actions complaints
  • reports complaints statistics to senior management.

Environmental awareness training.

Investigation of community suggested noise improvements.

Internal assurance reviews and audits undertaken by Airservices:

  • safety and assurance function
  • audit function.

External reviews/audits undertaken by:

  • ISO 14001 auditors
  • external stakeholders as required (including the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman and Civil Aviation Safety Authority).

Impacts from on‑ground changes—including construction projects

(includes soil, water and biodiversity impacts)

Application of mandatory standard Environmental Management of Changes to On‑Ground Activities, which requires:

  • targeted environmental impact and risk assessment of proposed changes
  • investigation and acquittal of all approval and permitting requirements
  • documentation and implementation of specific project controls (including construction environmental management plans).

Application of other subsidiary EMS standards and procedures (including our infrastructure management standard, incident management standards, environmental occurrence response procedures and chemical management procedures).

Environmental awareness training, including the rollout of a new programme for our people involved in on-ground activities.

Internal assurance reviews and audits undertaken by Airservices:

  • safety and assurance function
  • audit function
  • environmental subject matter experts and consultants.

External reviews/audits undertaken by:

  • ISO 14001 auditors
  • stakeholders as required (e.g. Airport Environment Officers).

Legacy contamination from the historic use of firefighting foams containing PFAS

Implementation of the Per‑and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Program Management Plan, including:

  • detailed and targeted site assessments to better understand the extent and level of historic PFAS residues
  • undertaking research and development activities to better understand PFAS and associated issues
  • trialling new technologies in the field aimed at containing PFAS migration
  • working with relevant government authorities to develop regulatory guidance required to better address these issues.

Application of environmental management procedures and instructions.

Development and implementation of PFAS management plans at specific airport locations.

Application of other subsidiary EMS standards and procedures (including incident management standards, environmental occurrence response procedures and chemical management procedures).

Environmental awareness training, including the rollout of a new programme for our people involved in on-ground activities.

Internal assurance reviews and audits undertaken by Airservices:

  • safety and assurance function
  • audit function.

External reviews/audits undertaken by:

  • ISO 14001 auditors
  • external stakeholders as required (including the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman and Civil Aviation Safety Authority).

Impacts from on‑ground operational activities

(includes soil, water and biodiversity impacts)

Development and implementation of operational environment management plans (OEMPs), detailing the management of environmental risks associated with activities, for Airservices assets and operations at 36 airports across Australia (including all federally leased airports).

Application of environmental management procedures and instructions.

Application of mandatory standard Environmental Performance Requirements and Controls for Airservices Infrastructure, which prescribes the objectives and key controls for managing each lifecycle stage of infrastructure development (including the operational phase).

Application of other subsidiary EMS standards and procedures (including fuel and hazardous materials storage procedures, environmental occurrence response procedures, chemical management procedures and weed and pest control guidelines).

Environmental awareness training, including the rollout of a new programme for our people involved in on-ground activities.

Resource usage

(including energy waste, water)

Application of mandatory standard Environmental Performance Requirements and Controls for Airservices Infrastructure, which requires:

  • incorporation of resource-efficient and sustainable technologies in the development and refurbishment of infrastructure
  • identification of resource sustainability opportunities and incorporation into asset management programmes.

Monitoring and metering of emissions, water, waste, energy and fuel usage through ENVIZI (integrated software platform) to enable reporting in accordance with the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007.

Accordance with Ecologically sustainable development principles

We are committed to the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD), which are enshrined within our corporate plan, environmental policy and EMS.

Key improvements and management initiatives for 2019–20, which accord with ESD principles under the EPBC Act, are described in the table below.

Key ESD aligned activities in 2019–20

Ecologically Sustainable Development Principles

Activities

Integration principle: Decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long‑term and short‑term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations

Our flight path change management processes have integrated and embedded social and environmental impact assessment methodologies that inform the delivery of effective community engagement activities and environmentally responsible flight path design.

Key improvements enacted included:

  • functional alignment of flight path design, environmental assessment, community engagement and aircraft noise complaint management
  • national stakeholder consultation to develop new Flight Path Design Principles that will guide the design, development and implementation of future flight path changes and consider environmental and social impacts, in addition to safety and operational requirements
  • expansion of the Engage Airservices website to support community engagement for all flight path changes and to enable consideration of community feedback to inform flight path design
  • development of the Community Engagement Framework that provides a contemporary approach, and includes improved engagement timing, information provision and engagement methods.

To support the environmental efficiency of our customers’ operations (both short and long term), we continued to:

  • provide efficient aircraft routing options
  • implement continuous descent operations (CDO) and continuous climb operations (CCO)
  • implement Required Navigation Performance procedures.

Our planned implementation of the Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A‑CDM), and Long Range Air Traffic Flow Management (LR‑ATFM) platforms has been placed on hold following the dramatic downturn in aviation activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A‑CDM is a form of smart airport technology that allows Airservices, airports and airlines to share data and synchronise operations. LR‑ATFM allows greater scheduling and control of aircraft airport arrivals, which avoids holding patterns and associated landing delays. Expected improved environmental outcomes through reduced fossil fuel use and emissions will not be realised until aircraft arrival demand at airports recovers, and we will plan restart criteria for the two initiatives in conjunction with our industry partners.

Precautionary principle: If there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation

We continued to progress implementation of the Per‑and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Program Management Plan. This includes:

  • continuing site assessments to better understand the extent and level of PFAS residues
  • undertaking research and development activities to better understand the issues
  • trialling new technologies in the field aimed at containing PFAS migration
  • working with relevant government authorities to develop the regulatory guidance required to better address these issues.

Key milestones of the plan delivered this reporting period:

  • Finalisation of the transition to PFAS-free foam at Darwin and Townsville airports in agreement with the Department of Defence.
  • Completion of a longitudinal study by the University of Queensland to assess effectiveness of PFAS exposure controls for communities and fire fighters.

Intergenerational principle: The present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.

We continue to evolve and develop the EMS to ensure the application of programmes and controls that protect the environment from our activities for current and future generations.

Key EMS improvements made in 2019-20 include:

  • revised on-ground change management suite, including updated on-ground change management standard, Corporate Integrated Reporting and Risk Information System (CIRRIS) Managemen of Change (MOC) module, and development of a template for conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA)
  • revised Air Traffic Management (ATM) change management suite, including the ATM change National Operating Standard (NOS), and ATM CIRRIS MOC module
  • revised risk management methodologies and processes for operational processes
  • revised environmental occurrence management standard to ensure improved external reporting timeframes and responsibilities are reflected

Our EMS at our two representative sites-Gold Coast Airport and Canberra Airport- was audited by an independent external body to gain re-certification against the requirements within ISO 14001:2015, Environmental Management Systems. The audit concluded the organisation fulfils ISO 14001 standard requirements and considers the management system continues to achieve its intended outcomes.

We continued to promote environmental awareness and train key people on environmental issues, while undertaking a targeted audit and assurance programme to check on, and improve, our performance. This includes the rollout of a new programme for our people involved in on-ground activities, to ensure the appropriate environmental management of approximately 700 of our sites across Australia.

We worked with the Civil Aviation Historical Society and other stakeholders to preserve Australia’s aviation history. We continued our support for the Connecting the Nation portal, sponsorship of the Airways Museum based at Essendon Airport, and industry partnership with the Australian Research Council for the Heritage of the Air Project (a research project investigating how aviation has transformed Australian society over the last 100 years).

We also sponsored the Women in Aviation International (WAI) Australian Chapter in 2019, as well as providing media and social media support at the WAI Emerging Leaders Forum.

Our fire fighters have provided active support to the bush fires response in both New South Wales and Queensland.

In January 2019, we revised our Heritage Strategy for the period 2018–2020, in accordance with Section 341ZA of the EPBC Act. In accordance with this strategy, we updated Heritage Management Plans for six air traffic control towers on the Commonwealth Heritage List, and started digital recording work for four of our navigational aids with known heritage values (that will soon be transferred).

Our former International Transmitter Station (ITS) site at Llandilo in western Sydney will be transferred to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, to create a new regional park, conserving the site’s natural, Indigenous and historical heritage values.

Rectification and ratification of resource usage data is progressing. We reported in accordance with National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 requirements for 2018–19.

Biodiversity principle: The conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making

The protection of biodiversity values is a key requirement of the EMS with associated controls built into the management of all our activities (from flight path changes to on‑ground operations).

Our revised requirements for flight path change management include additional quantitative and qualitative measures for assessing biodiversity impacts. Our internal standards for infrastructure development include targeted controls to protect flora and fauna values throughout projects and operational activities.

Our former International Transmitter Station (ITS) site at Llandilo in western Sydney, will be transferred to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to create a new regional park. The site has large strands of the Cumberland Plain Woodland endangered ecological community, and a number of associated threatened species.

At our Doppler Very High-Frequency Omnidirectional Range (DVOR) and Non-Directional Beacon (NBD) sites at Canberra Airport, we produced and implemented a new guide for the management of the natural temperate grassland ecological community (and a number of associated threatened species), to better align with the landowner’s (Department of Defence) management practices on adjoining properties.

Valuation principle: Improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted

We continue to build and manage our asset base through the implementation of our Asset Management and Portfolio, Program and Project Management (P3M) Frameworks. Under P3M, investment initiatives are strategically prioritised to ensure we deliver value and innovation to our customers and ensure the sustainment of our ageing asset base.

Noise complaints and information service

The number of residents contacting the Noise Complaints and Information Service (NCIS) in 2019–20 was 3,464. This was 360 less than in 2018–19.

The number of residents concerned about activities at the 10 major airports was 40 per cent lower than 2018–19 and was also lower than those seen in previous years. At major airports, the most frequently raised issue continued to be the use of standard flight path corridors. Concerns included the frequency of movements, a perception that something had changed the location of the flight path, and questions about the altitudes of aircraft on arrival and departure. While we investigate concerns about standard flight paths, few opportunities exist to mitigate noise for residential areas in proximity to the major airports.

Number of residents who contacted the NCIS for the 10 major airports shows during 2019–20, most major airports had a decrease in number of residents making complaints of around 50 percent on average. The exceptions were Darwin and Brisbane Airports which both saw a slight increase and Melbourne Airport, which had a more significant increase.

The far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry in the first half of 2020 resulted in the reduction of scheduled flight operations, contributing to the overall decrease in complainants. Due to increased access to airspace, flight training activities at most secondary airports increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in an increase of complainant numbers at these airports.

Gold Coast Airport complainant numbers decreased by 40 per cent in 2019–20. We continue to monitor the application of Noise Abatement Procedures that restrict the use of the instrument landing system (ILS) for Runway 14 to periods of increased cloud coverage or reduced visibility, or where operationally required or necessary for an emergency.

In 2019–20 complainants decreased by 77 per cent for Hobart Airport, following broad consultation for the Hobart Airspace Design Review and subsequent flight path implementation on 7 November 2019, and reduced scheduled flight operations.

Melbourne Airport recorded a 38 per cent increase in complainants in 2019–20. This was attributed to the increased use of arrivals and departures to and from the north/south runway because of a mix of strong seasonal winds and runway closures for maintenance.

There was a 60 per cent decrease of complainants for Perth Airport in 2019–20. While changes to air traffic management associated with runway closures and maintenance works, that had previously attracted attention continued, the community was proactively informed of activities.

While not listed in the 10 major airports, Sunshine Coast Airport complainant numbers increased in 2019–20. There were 151 noise complainants in 2019–20, compared to 70 in 2018–19. We attribute this to increased community interest in aircraft operations with the new Sunshine Coast runway project and associated flight path changes. The new runway commenced operations on 14 June 2020.

Number of residents who contacted the NCIS for the 10 major airports

Airport

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

2019–20

Adelaide

111

102

89

76

Brisbane

247

197

252

292

Cairns

38

30

30

22

Canberra

43

21

30

10

Darwin

13

4

5

6

Gold Coast

210

153

231

138

Hobart

3

384

293

67

Melbourne

155

177

160

220

Perth

791

388

716

282

Sydney

773

714

713

388

Total

2384

2170

2519

1501