Light Rail Stage 2B EPBC Referral: Document Overview

HomeNewsBlogLight Rail Stage 2B EPBC Referral: Document Overview

In addition to the announcement of a completion date of 2033 for Light Rail Stage 2B, consultation on the next stage of Canberra’s light rail project (Commonwealth Park to Woden) has commenced.

The general public are now invited to comment on the project’s EPBC referral, which is required under the Federal Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

As with a lot of these approvals, there are multiple documents and hundreds of pages to wade through. To help clarify what’s being presented, we’ve broken them down to help you find what you’re after.

EPBC Referral Documentation: Commonwealth Park to Woden Light Rail Project

This list of documents is intended to provide a useful resource for compiling your submission, which you can lodge here. Public comment is open until Monday 18 March.

It’s important to understand that while this is the first opportunity for the public to look at details of the project and is thus an exciting moment, this invitation for public comment isn’t a call for general opinions – it is a process to determine whether Light Rail Stage 2B is a “controlled action” under the EPBC Act. A controlled action is an action that the Minister for the Environment and Water decides has, will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a “protected matter”, i.e. one of the key areas that the EPBC Act protects, including national heritage and aspects of the natural environment (see below for more).

The outcome of this assessment affects the shape of the approvals process into the future. Keep all this in mind as you read and contribute!

PTCBR’s comment can be viewed here.

Referral Overview

This document provides a written summary of Light Rail Stage 2B, including key project features, the routes being considered, proposed stop locations, construction activities, and operational impacts. It also outlines why the project requires an EBPC referral, with a list of all the environmental and heritage factors at play.

Available here: 00-2023-09753 Referral.pdf

Some points of particular interest:

  • 1.2.1 – “Provide an overview of the proposed action, including all proposed activities.”, pages 1-3. If you read only one section, make it this one – it lays out what the project is, what it will do, and what construction activities it will require.

  • 1.2.6 – “What Commonwealth or state legislation, planning frameworks or policy documents are relevant to the proposed action, and how are they relevant?”, pages 5-6. If you’re wondering why the approvals process for this project seems so complicated, join the club! PTCBR understands that explanatory material about the approvals process will be forthcoming from Major Projects Canberra (MPC), but for now, this section of the EPBC Referral documentation is extremely helpful. It lists and explains all the pieces of legislation and other documents that are relevant to Stage 2B approvals, how they are relevant, and what it means for the project to adhere to and comply with each one.
    • You may be interested in the sub-section “Works Approval”, which is about the National Capital Authority and the National Capital Plan. PTCBR notes the following statement – we strongly encourage and welcome better coordination between these parties: “The ACT Government and the NCA have been successful in establishing a solid working relationship throughout the design and delivery of the City to Gungahlin light rail, as well as Raising London Circuit. This included, for example, effective coordination between ACTPLA and the NCA in agreeing consistent conditions of approval, as far as possible having regard to the different regulatory regimes that applied. This relationship would be beneficial in seeking Works Approval for the Project.”

  • 1.2.7 – “Describe any public consultation that has been, is being or will be undertaken regarding the project area, including with Indigenous stakeholders. Attach any completed consultation documentations, if relevant.”, pages 6-7. This section details consultation undertaken to date and future consultation. It lists many opportunities for the general public to be involved with the project, including “community pop-ups and workshops, website and social media channels and formal meetings and working groups” as well as public consultation rounds attached to the approvals processes listed in 1.2.6. If you’re interested in being involved, keep an eye out for future communications from MPC.

  • Section 4 – “Impacts and mitigation”, pages 19-35. This section will help you to understand what the EPBC Act is about and why it is relevant to this project. There are nine “protected matters” that the Act looks after: world heritage areas, national heritage places, wetlands of international importance, listed threatened species and ecological communities, listed migratory species, Commonwealth marine areas, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, nuclear actions, and water resources. The Act can also cover actions taken on Commonwealth land or that impact upon Commonwealth land, taken by an Australian Government agency anywhere in the world, or that impact Commonwealth heritage places overseas. Section 4 lists each of these areas in turn and the project team addresses why or why not Light Rail Stage 2B has relevance to each. Of particular note:
    • 4.1.2 – “National Heritage”. This section discusses the anticipated impact on national heritage by the “Barton dogleg” alternative route, specifically on Old Parliament House.
    • 4.1.4 – “Threatened Species and Ecological Communities”. You may have seen media coverage relating to some native species that could be affected by Stage 2B – this section is where you can find details. Be sure to read sub-section which covers avoidance and mitigation measures.
    • 4.1.10 – “Commonwealth Land”. This section describes potential impacts, including heritage impacts, on the following locations on Commonwealth land – Commonwealth Avenue, Edmund Barton Building, Lake Burley Griffin, and the Patent Office. The impact of Stage 2B on the built environment in the Parliamentary Zone is a hot-button topic, and this section is worth a read to gain an overview of how the project team at MPC is approaching it.


APPENDIX A – LRS2B Preliminary Environmental Assessment.pdf
Preliminary Environmental Assessment

This is the meatiest document in the referral. It states the strategic rationale for Light Rail Stage 2B, outlines the key plans, policies, and guidelines that are being considered, and provides an overview of the potential environmental impacts associated with the project.

Some points of interest:

– What is this document for? From page ii of the Executive Summary – the Preliminary Environmental Assessment has two key functions. It is intended to assist:
• The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and DCCEEW to determine whether the Project is a controlled action under the Commonwealth (Cth) Environment and Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the appropriate method for assessing the environmental impacts of the two alternative alignment options described below
• The ACT Minister for Planning and Land Management of EPSDD to define the scope of environment assessment needed to support an application for a DA made under the Planning Act 2023 (ACT) (Planning Act).

– A simple list of the approvals required for Stage 2B can be found on page ii of the Executive Summary:
• A Works Approval from the NCA under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (Cth) (PALM Act) to carry out certain works in Designated Areas under the National Capital Plan (NCP)
• A Development Application from the Territory Planning Authority or the Minister under the Planning Act, for works on Territory land subject to the Territory Plan 2023
• Approval from the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment under the EPBC Act to carry out the Project, if determined a controlled action
• Approval from both Houses of Parliament, for works within the Parliamentary Zone, as defined in the Parliament Act 1974 (Cth).

– “Next steps” on page iv of the Executive Summary gives us a picture of what’s to come in the approvals process. Great to see the path forward!

Chapter 3 – Planning and Legislation. This chapter provides further detail on statutory and planning approvals required for the project. Figures 3-1 to 3-4 across pages 15-18 give visual representations of the approvals processes, relationships between the different relevant bodies, and a map showing which areas of the Stage 2B map are under the jurisdiction of which bodies. Handy!

Chapter 4 – Project description, 4.4 – Operation. Confirms that Stage 2B will run with the same headways as our current light rail line, and also states that “LRVs would typically have priority over other traffic” along the alignment. It also states that LRVs will have a maximum speed of 70km/h for wired running and 50-60km/h for wire-free running. Also note that LRVs will apparently get on-board wi-fi!

Appendix A, Table 11-4 – “Preliminary risk assessment”. This is worth a look through – it lists the many anticipated risks, impacts, issues, and more that could potentially be caused by the project and offers a basic risk assessment for each.

APPENDIX B Engaging Canberrans
Community Engagement.pdf
Community Engagement Strategy

This document outlines the ACT Government’s community engagement strategy, which they will apply to the Light Rail Stage 2B project as it progresses through further stages of the environmental approvals processes.

APPENDIX C Light Rail Sustainability Policy 1.pdf
Light Rail Sustainability Policy

This one-pager outlines the ACT Government’s sustainability vision for Light Rail Stage 2B, including opportunities to deliver improved social, economic and environmental outcomes through all stages of the project’s lifecycle.

APPENDIX D ACT Planning Strategy 2018.pdf
ACT Planning Strategy 2018

This is the ACT Government’s key strategic document for managing growth and change in Canberra. The strategy commits to delivering up to 70 per cent of new housing within Canberra’s existing urban footprint, and by concentrating that development in areas located close to the city centre, town and group centres, and along key public transport corridors, including the Light Rail Stage 2B route.

APPENDIX E ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-2025.pdf
ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25

This strategy outlines the ACT Government’s response and key actions to prepare for climate change. It details the importance of improving public transport and delivering Light Rail Stage 2B to provide a user-friendly, efficient and zero emissions network. Each of its strategies and policies detail the aim of improving Canberra’s intermodal transport system whilst targeting net zero emissions.

APPENDIX F MPC Strategic Plan 2020-25 final.pdf
Major Projects Canberra Strategic Plan 2020-25

This is MPC’s key strategic document for implementing projects, including Light Rail Stage 2B. This is a broad-stroke view of who MPC are and what they do. Light rail is one of many infrastructure projects being delivered by this organisation – the light rail project teams sits within MPC. If you would like to know more about the top-level body delivering light rail in Canberra, this is worth looking through.

APPENDIX G – Preliminary Ecological Assessment.pdf
Preliminary Ecological Assessment

This assessment provides preliminary results for the locations of ecological values along the proposed Light Rail Stage 2B alignment, including the presence of ecological communities, threatened species and their habitat as listed under the EPBC Act.

APPENDIX H Preliminary Heritage Advice Report.pdf
Preliminary Heritage Advice Report

This document identifies potential heritage issues and constraints, and provides an overview of any potential impacts on the heritage places along the two proposed Light Rail Stage 2B routes.

APPENDIX I – Transport for Canberra 2012-2031.pdf
Transport for Canberra 2012-2031

The ACT Government’s transport strategy from 2012 highlights the important relationship between land use and transport. It is included in this referral documentation package as an example of relevant public consultation that has already occurred in the Light Rail Stage 2B project area.

APPENDIX J – Moving Canberra 2019-2045 (Integrated Transport Strategy).pdf
Moving Canberra 2019-2045

The ACT Government’s draft integrated transport strategy from 2019 built on the Transport for Canberra policy by providing a long term vision for an integrated transport network. As with the previous document, it is included in this package as an example of previous public consultation undertaken in the Light Rail Stage 2B project area.

APPENDIX K – Parliament House Vista Heritage Management Plan Volume 1.pdf
Parliament House Vista Area Heritage Management Plan – Volume 1

This document outlines key policies for managing and protecting the significance of the Commonwealth Heritage Listed Parliament House Vista, which Light Rail Stage 2B will traverse.

PTCBR strongly encourages everyone to read through the documents above to learn more about the project and get equipped to offer informed feedback now and in future consultation rounds. Feel free to share your ideas at any time with PTCBR in our public Facebook group, through our website form, and at our public events – your views will help shape our submissions to this project and our advocacy efforts.