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Management of biodiversity and cultural heritage in FY17

Rosanna Vazey
13 September 2017

Throughout Australia AGL operates projects in areas with biodiversity and cultural heritage value, and it is great to read about the measures AGL is taking to ensure we operate in a responsible manner to minimize our impact. AGL is committed to looking after the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the areas that our projects are located in. Highlights over the FY17 period include:

  • Nest box monitoring near Newcastle Gas Storage Facility (NGSF): 54 of the 100 nest boxes installed on AGL-owned land adjacent to NGSF in 2012 exhibited signs of use during annual monitoring in late 2016 (compared to 62% in 2015 and 41% in 2014), indicating continuing success of this project. These nest boxes provide nesting habitat for a variety of mammals including the threatened squirrel gliders, as well as sugar gliders, brushtail/ringtail possums, pygmy possums and microbats.
  • NGSF offsets property: In May 2016, the New South Wales Minister for the Environment signed Conservation Agreements with AGL over two parcels of our land, located north of Newcastle. The Conservation Agreements satisfy a project approval commitment made to secure a biodiversity offset relating to the development of the NGSF project. The properties, together amounting to an area of 117.6 hectares, possess biodiversity and landscape conservation value, comprising habitat suitable for koalas and a range of other fauna species listed as vulnerable under New South Wales and Commonwealth threatened species legislation. In FY17 AGL has managed these properties in accordance with requirements of the Conservation Agreements, undertaking weed control, track maintenance, property inspections, waste removal and fencing improvements.
  • Silver Springs oil and gas operations: Some of our site operational employees are trained and qualified fauna spotter-catchers who support fauna management across our remote oil and gas asset locations in Queensland. A number of our people are also trained as weed and seed hygiene specialists, who perform weed and seed hygiene inspections for vehicles and machinery used at our sites, including drilling and workover rigs and earthmoving equipment. Ongoing surveillance and the implementation of weed hygiene and inspection programs are critical to protecting the productive condition and agricultural land use values of the land on which we operate. Weed hygiene is also critical for the protection of native vegetation and protected flora species.
  • Macarthur Wind Farm: Breeding pairs of brolgas, which are a listed threatened species in Victoria, use the wetlands within the Macarthur Wind Farm during the breeding season each year. The 2016 breeding season brought breeding success, with a brolga chick successfully born and raised on the wind farm till fledging stage before leaving the wind farm site in late November when the family migrated back to a flocking site. This is an important result for the conservation of the local brolga community, as brolgas are listed as vulnerable under Victorian legislation. Brolga monitoring conducted throughout the Macarthur Wind Farm and surrounding area has determined that the wind farm provides breeding habitat for brolgas in the region.
  • AGL Macquarie Compensatory Habitat: A Compensatory Habitat of approximately 15 hectares was established in 2006 adjacent to the Antiene Rail Coal Unloader. On 27 April 2016, a grassfire occurred as a result of rail grinding works being carried out on the Drayton Rail Loop by a third party. The fire extended into and spread throughout most of the Compensatory Habitat area. The area was assessed by suitably-qualified consultant who found that the majority of the 15 hectares had been damaged. Plans are in place to restore the area, including replacing affected trees.
  • AGL Macquarie fish and platypus monitoring: During FY17, fish monitoring involved tagging 30 Australian Bass with electronic tags and installing associated receiving stations to track the bass movements up and down the weir pool adjacent to the AGL Macquarie river pumps in the Hunter River. The platypus monitoring involved visual observations and taking E-DNA samples from the river water to determine platypus activity in the vicinity of the pump station. The results of the fish monitoring has shown the bass are travelling up and down the weir. The E-DNA sampling has shown that platypus inhabit the section of the river adjacent to the river pumps. The results from the fish monitoring and platypus monitoring demonstrate that the operation of the river pumps has not had a detrimental impact on fish and platypus.
  • AGL Macquarie vegetation community mapping and bio-banking assessment: In FY17 we commenced a project to map vegetation communities across our land holdings at AGL Macquarie. This project has involved the preparation of a Vegetation Management Plan which enables better management of native vegetation, including asset protection and native seed harvesting. The project has also assessed our land holdings at AGL Macquarie for bio-banking potential through the New South Wales Biodiversity Banking and Offsets Scheme, which aims to address the loss of biodiversity values caused by habitat degradation.
  • AGL Macquarie rehabilitation: During FY17 a total of 10 hectares of the Ravensworth mine site was rehabilitated using native woodland species typical of the Central Hunter Grey Box-Ironbark Woodland Vegetation Community.
  • AGL Biomass Policy: In recognition of the effect that electricity generation can have on biodiversity, we have established a Biomass Policy which states that AGL will not source fuel for power generation from native forest or from crops located in areas cleared of native forest after 1990.

For more information, see the biodiversity and cultural heritage page in the FY17 Sustainability Report here.