Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

​​The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has a statutory requirement under section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to report on:

​ our contribution to ecologically sustainable development (ESD) through our outcomes and activities the environmental performance of our internal operations.

Ecologically sustainable development principles

The principles of ESD outlined in section 3A of the Act are that:

  • decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations
  • 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
  • the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations
  • the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making
  • improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted.

Our contribution to ecologically sustainable development through our outcomes and activities

Our outcomes embody the ESD principles:

Outcome 1: More sustainable, productive, internationally competitive and profitable Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries through policies and initiatives that promote better resource management practices, innovation, self-reliance and improved access to international markets.

Outcome 2: Safeguard Australia’s animal and plant health status to maintain overseas markets and protect the economy and environment from the impact of exotic pests and diseases, through risk assessment, inspection and certification, and the implementation of emergency response arrangements for Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries.

Outcome 3: Improve the health of rivers and freshwater ecosystems and water use efficiency through implementing water reforms, and ensuring enhanced sustainability, efficiency and productivity in the management and use of water resources.

We play a leading role or contribute to national and international policies with significant ESD objectives. We deliver programs to fund research, training and projects aimed at mitigating climate change, improving water efficiency and promoting sustainable resource management. Our role in biosecurity is critical to maintaining biodiversity in Australia and overseas. We also deliver funding to community organisations and to the portfolio research and development corporations whose work includes activities supporting ESD.

Our work supports the goal of development that meets Australia’s current needs while conserving our ecosystems for the benefit of future generations.

Our key activities in 2015–16 are outlined in Part 2: Annual performance statements.

Legislative responsibilities

The following legislation, administered by the department under the current Administrative Arrangements Order, contributes directly to ESD:

  • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Act 1994
  • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Act 1992
  • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994
  • Biosecurity Act 2015
  • Export Control Act 1982
  • Fisheries Administration Act 1991
  • Fisheries Management Act 1991
  • Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012
  • Quarantine Act 1908
  • Natural Resources Management (Financial Assistance) Act 1992
  • Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989
  • Regional Forest Agreements Act 2002
  • Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984
  • Water Act 2007
  • Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005.

Environmental impact of our operations

Energy efficiency

Our central office buildings in Canberra maintain a base building rating of 4.5 stars under the National Australian Built Environment Rating System. Both buildings contain T5 energy efficient lighting and movement sensors, which turn off lighting in office areas after hours. The buildings also contain energy efficient window blinds, which reduce the energy required to heat and cool the buildings during the day. We acknowledge the importance of green energy in the electricity contracts for our Canberra buildings. These contracts include a 10 per cent allocation of green power through the whole-of-government electricity contract.

As shown in Figure 26, over the five years to 30 June 2016 the department’s electricity and gas consumption was in the range of 50 000 to 54 000 gigajoules per annum. In 2015–16, our energy consumption (excluding diesel and petroleum products) increased by 7.2 per cent to 51 491 gigajoules, primarily due to the progressive commissioning of the post-entry quarantine facility at Mickleham in Victoria.

This graph shows the department’s consumption of gas and electricity for the past five years:  In 2011–12, energy consumption was 50 376 gigajoules.  In 2012–13, energy consumption was 53 421 gigajoules.  In 2013–14, energy consumption was 52 744 gigajoules.  In 2014–15, energy consumption was 48 015 gigajoules.  In 2015–16, energy consumption was 51 491 gigajoules. 

Transport

We monitor the fuel consumption and kilometres travelled for all fleet vehicles and encourage drivers to purchase ethanol blended fuel (E10) where possible. As existing fleet vehicle leases reach expiry, operational areas are asked to consider replacing these with efficient hybrid or diesel vehicles where this is practical. During 2015–16, we significantly increased our hybrid fleet and, as at 30 June 2016,
leased 146 hybrid vehicles in our fleet nationally.

In 2015–16, the department consumed 15 396 gigajoules in transport fuels for passenger vehicles, a reduction of 23.4 per cent on the previous year. This result has been driven by the increase in our hybrid fleet. Figure 27 shows a continued downward trend in transport energy consumed over a five-year period.

This graph shows the department’s consumption of diesel and petroleum products for the past five years:  In 2011–12, transport energy consumption was 33 108 gigajoules.   In 2013–14, transport energy consumption was 28 388 gigajoules.  In 2013–14, transport energy consumption was 25 377 gigajoules.  In 2014–15, transport energy consumption was 20 103 gigajoules.  In 2015–16, transport energy consumption was 15 396 gigajoules. 

Water conservation

Our central office buildings recycle and capture stormwater to flush all toilets. In bathrooms and change rooms, we have waterless urinals, water saving shower heads, infrared motion-active hand basins and 4A-rated dual flush toilets. These initiatives contribute to reducing our reliance on the local water supply.

Waste management

We continue to encourage good recycling practices, providing ready access to segregated waste streams in the office environment. Recycling bins are located throughout central office buildings in kitchens and common areas and include general waste, organic recycling and co-mingled recycling.

The organic waste stream is a unique feature of our central office buildings and can be used to dispose of compostable materials and foodstuffs. Through this process, all organic waste from all levels of the participating buildings is collected and relocated off-site and then processed into mulch for further use. This reclaims usable materials and reduces the quantity of general waste from these sites.

As shown in Figure 28, over the five years to 30 June 2016, the department has increased reclaiming of usable materials and reducing the quantity of general waste. The organic waste stream captured 13.7 tonnes of organic waste in 2015–16.

This graph shows the amount of organic waste captured and processed in the past five years:  In 2011–12, the department captured 8.4 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2012–13, the department captured 9.2 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2013–14, the department captured 9.3 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2014–15, the department captured 7.6 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2015–16, the department captured 13.7 tonnes of organic waste. 

The co-mingled recycling program continues to be supported in the Canberra offices. As shown in Figure 29, we collected and processed 46 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.

This graph shows the amount of co-mingled recycling collected in the past five years:  In 2011–12, the department captured 14 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2012–13, the department captured 64 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2013–14, the department captured 74 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2014–15, the department captured 54 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2015–16, the department captured 46 tonnes of co-mingled recycling. 

Engaging staff through ECONet

The department’s ECONet, with assistance from the Commercial Business and ICT Services and Operations branches, continued to find ways to make the department’s operations more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Following a successful launch in June 2015, the ECONet met on a semi-regular basis with the senior executive to discuss, propose and implement environmental efficiencies. A number of ECONet volunteers also made a site visit to Canberra’s Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre, strengthening the department’s connections with the ActSmart Business Recycling Program and learning about more
effective ways to encourage recycling.

With the support of an ActSmart donation, we have installed clearer bin signage in the Canberra office, and provided more information about the types of waste that can be recycled. Compost bins have also been placed in all Canberra office kitchenettes.

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