Airservices environmental obligations are derived from both the Air Services Act 1995 and Commonwealth environmental legislation. Subject to this, Airservices performs its functions so that, as far as practicable, the environment is protected from the effects of aircraft operations.
Environmental assessments are undertaken when they relate to changes to aircraft operations and traffic management practices such as:
- a new, or amendment to an existing, instrument approach
- a new, or amendment to an existing, flight path or air route
- a change to preferred runways
- a change in time of day of operations (such as amendments to tower hours of operation).
When conducting an environmental assessment, Airservices undertakes the following process:
1. Initial change screening
A screening of the proposal is done early in the planning phase to assess potential environmental risks which relate to aircraft flight patterns. If the risk screening finds potential increases in the impacts, then further environmental assessment is undertaken.
2. Environmental assessment planning
The level of environmental risk is then considered from the proposed change and a detailed assessment methodology is designed. If the risks are found to be so great that they cannot be mitigated, the proposal is removed from the assessment process and sent back to the proponent for rescoping.
3. Environmental assessment
This comprises of a detailed assessment of risks in the following key areas of:
- community noise
- aircraft emissions
- other impacts on the environment such as ecosystems, natural and physical resources, heritage values of places, social, economic or cultural aspects.
This assessment stage determines whether the change has the potential to cause significant impacts to the environment and is undertaken against a suite of metrics including:
- number of noise events above 60dB(A) and 70dB(A)
- maximum noise levels
- average noise levels
- estimates of population numbers potentially affected by changes in noise levels.
If Airservices determines that the proposal is unlikely to result in significant impact on the environment, then the proposed change may continue as planned. Where a determination that the proposal may have significant impact on the environment, the Environment Minister is informed and advice provided as to whether a formal assessment is required or if the proposal can proceed as planned (subject to certain conditions).
4. Community and engagement plan
Airservices uses the information provided by the environmental assessment to develop a plan for engagement with the community if the proposed changes are found to have negative impacts. This plan follows Airservices Communication and consultation protocol which can be updated at any time throughout the process as new information becomes available through further analysis and community feedback.
5. Post implementation review
A post implementation review (PIR) is undertaken for implemented changes. This examines whether predicated and actual outcomes align and also takes into account community responses and feedback. The PIR can recommend redesign to achieve improvements, noting that any such changes would require further environmental assessment.