AusNet is trying to push ahead its proposal of overhead power lines and terminal station in the Hepburn Shire, but to do that AusNet needs environmental approval. The Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process is designed to assess the environmetal and social impact of the proposal. As part of the EES process the public can submit their feedback on AusNet's EES via the Engage Victoria web page. We anticipate that the EES will be published sometime in the first quarter of 2023.Hepburn Shire council will make an announcement when the EES draft is close to being finalized and again when it is on exhibition.
When the EES is on exhibition it will be an important opportunity for members of the community who are opposed to Ausnet’s project to submit a formal objection.
The Minister for Planning has already indicated that an enquiry will be appointed to review all submissions. This enquiry will then prepare a report for the Minister to assist with making a final decision.
Anyone can make a submission and we want to help the members of our community make robust objections.
There have been several occasions when the minister’s assessment has concluded that substantial aspects of a proposal needed to change, ultimately modifying the shape of a project.
Public participation is integral to environmental impact assessment. It is not uncommon for a project that goes through an EES to be shaped by the community participation. A proponent may respond to information that emerges from the EES. What is most important is not the volume of submissions but the weight and validity of what they are saying.
When the EES is on exhibition the public will have 6 weeks to make a submission.
The Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is a mandatory part of the approval process for the proponent (in this case Ausnet) of a project of this scale to undertake before commencement. It will provide the Minister for Planning with a detailed description of the project and the potential impacts on the environment. It should enable stakeholders and decision-makers to understand how the project is proposed to be implemented and the likely environmental effects of doing so.
The Minister for Planning will consider the EES and make an assessment of the impacts of the proposed project. The Minister’s assessment includes findings on the environmental effects and may conclude that the project:
- Will have an acceptable level of environmental effects or
- Will not have an acceptable level of environmental effects or
- Would need major modifications and/or further investigations to establish that acceptable outcomes would be achieved.
Decision makers must consider the Minister’s assessment in deciding whether to approve the project under Victorian law or to authorise public works. While the recommendations in the Minister’s assessment are authoritative, they are not usually binding on decision makers.
The Minister, in the Final Scoping Requirements for the EES, has identified broad key matters and environmental risks that the EES should investigate and document:
- alternative corridors, alignments, site locations, designs or other options for the planning, construction or operation of the project;
- potential effects on biodiversity, including loss, degradation or fragmentation of habitat;
- effects on Aboriginal and historic cultural heritage values;
- impacts on visual and landscape values; and
- other effects on land uses and the community.
The EES should address the feasibility of potential environmental mitigation and management measures associated with the matters listed above.
The proponent (Ausnet) is responsible for preparing the EES, including conducting technical studies and undertaking stakeholder consultation. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is responsible for managing the EES process.
DELWP have established a Technical Reference Group (TRG) which is an advisory body that will assist to identify areas of potential impact from the proposed project. Members of the TRG include:
- First Peoples – State Relation
- Heritage Victoria
- Water Authorities
- Energy Safe Victoria
- Local Councils
- Branches of DELWP
We anticipate that the EES will be published by the end of 2022.
Council will be updating the community when the EES is close to being finalised and when it is on exhibition.
The timeline below indicates that Ausnet is currently completing the EES.
Please view the video below provided by the Moorabool Shire Council on the EES process. It is this process that provides the public with an opportunity to object to Ausnet's proposal. The Minister will then appoint a panel to consider all objections and assist with making a final decision.
The exhibition date for the Western Renewables Link Environmental Effects Statement has not yet been confirm. However, it is likely to be on exhibition in the first quarter of 2023.
When the EES is on exhibition the public will have 6 weeks to submit a formal objection.
The Minister for Planning has already indicated that an inquiry will be appointed to review all submissions. This inquiry will then prepare a report for the Minister to assist with making a final decision.
Public participation is integral to the Environmental Effects Statement and anyone can make a submission to the EES.
Once you have written your submission (see below for help on how to write it), you’re ready to send it in.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is running the consultation process. Head to their website using the link below to make your submission online: https://engage.vic.gov.au/
On that page you will:
- Tick four boxes acknowledging that you understand your submission will be made publicly available, and that you have permission to publish your submission
- Type your name, address, email and phone number
- Indicate if you are making your submission on behalf of an organisation
- Type your submission (if less than 500 words) or upload your submission as a .doc or .pdf document
- Indicate if you wish to speak to your submission during the Public Hearing phase. We highly recommend you do, and we may be able to support people to prepare for this step.
- If you wish to call on expert witness – the answer is most likely ‘no’
Submissions are accepted for 6 weeks (we expect exhibition to commence in the first quarter of 2023)
If you have issues making an online submission, call Planning Panels Victoria at 136 186.
Every submission can have impact, no matter how simple. The most important thing you can do is make a submission, in whatever shape you are able!
But here are some tips to help you make a great submission, without being an expert:
- Write a unique submission. The review panel will look closely at unique submissions. This is helpful, because we each have a unique, personal story to tell about why we care. You do not need to be an expert – you just need to tell your own story.
- Focus on one (or maybe two) key points. The EES documents cover a broad range of topics, and no one person can possibly critique all aspects. It’ll be easier and clearer if you pick one thing that you really care about – perhaps the social impacts on a fragmented community, the viability of your business, the impacts to visual amenity, impacts to your land or home.
- Ask questions! You do not need to know if what they say is right, but simply asking questions about the project may be enough to highlight gaps in the assessments. This may persuade the panel to impose conditions addressing these gaps.
- Have someone check your submission. Ask a friend or a family member to read what you have written – is it clear to them what point you are making?
- Start early
The more time you allow yourself, the stronger your submission will be. You will want to make it perfect, and you will want to make corrections and additions. So allow yourself time. Start taking notes on what is important to you in the area and how this project will impact these things.
Timeline item 1 - complete
Timeline item 2 - complete
Area of interest engagement and EES referral Lodged
Identifying opportunities and constraints
Timeline item 3 - complete
Exhibition of draft EES scoping requirements
Scoping requirements determined for the EES
Timeline item 4 - active
EES preperation and specialist studies
Ausnet are currently undertaking land capability assessments and completing the EES.
Timeline item 5 - incomplete
EES goes on exhibition
Draft EES and technical reports are submitted to DELWP for review.
EES is on exhibition for 30 days.
In this 30 day period the community has an opportunity to submit their objection. Each submission will inform the panel in making its recomendations to the Minister for Planning