Environment and Sustainable Development
Any infrastructure, energy, resources or development project requires an understanding of Australia's complex and ever-evolving environmental, planning and cultural heritage laws, and how to meet current standards and community aspirations for sustainable development. Our truly national practice, with local independently recognised experts on the ground, will guide you through the maze of Federal, State and Territory legislation, policy and approval regimes to achieve your business goals as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Across current and emerging regulatory trends in ESG and beyond
As the world transitions to a decarbonised economy, understanding the environment social and governance (ESG) matters that impact the performance, reputation and risks of your business is critically important, so you can take advantage of opportunities arising from new markets, regulatory regimes and technologies. We'll explore all the legal implications of current and emerging ESG trends and other regulatory risks for your project, leveraging our decades of experience in issues such as:
- assessing and mitigating climate change and natural capital risk (both physical and transitional) of your project or development;
- building resilient infrastructure projects and precincts;
- waste minimisation, recycling, resource recovery and the circular economy;
- carbon, water and biodiversity credit markets;
- closure, decommissioning and repurposing mines and power stations;
- green building and other sustainable development standards; and
- ESG due diligence in transactions and supply chains.
We advise clients throughout the entire lifecycle of their projects – from the initial business case, approvals and procurement strategy, through to the delivery, operational and closure phases – and reduce your regulatory and litigation risk at each stage with our knowledge of environment and planning litigation and dispute resolution.
Broad sector experience, broad perspectives
Because we work for Federal, State and Local Government as well as the private sector, we can bring a wide range of perspectives to your project, transaction or dispute, informed by our experience across a huge variety of sectors – from transport, energy, resources, telecoms, water, agribusiness and waste sectors to environmental markets as well as compulsory acquisition, land acquisition and property development. Whatever your project, we know the angles and how to create a winning strategy for you.
And, because that advice is tailored to the intended audience – C-Suite, General Counsel, Site/Development Manager, a regulator, technical specialist, Government Department, local council or the community – you'll be sure that everyone gets the information they need and can act upon.
Major transport infrastructure
- Australian Rail Track Corporation: Our multi-jurisdictional team is advising on the 1,700km Inland Rail Program. Our work covers the full spectrum of environmental, sustainability and land issues (including approvals, sustainability, stakeholder and land strategies, environmental assessment, contractor strategy and procurement, project delivery (including contract administration and regulator relations), land acquisition and access, and risk management). The program is Australia's largest ever rail project – connecting Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. It comprises more than a dozen major infrastructure projects and will complete a major part of the national freight network.
- West Gate Tunnel Project: We've been advising the State of Victoria on this ground-breaking road project – which is widening Melbourne's heavily used West Gate Freeway – from the time of submission of the market-led proposal through to development of the assessment and approvals strategy, preparation of impact assessment documentation, securing project approvals, acquiring land and addressing a wide range of planning, environmental and heritage issues during construction and delivery. We also advised the State in relation to securing approvals for the receipt and disposal of tunnel spoil at multiple sites, and the transitioning of all environmental approvals under the new environment protection regime.
- North East Link Project: We're advising the State of Victoria on all aspects of the planning and development for the largest road transport project in Victoria's history: the North East Link Project. Our work has encompassed business case development, assessment of planning pathways, development of the EES assessment and approvals strategy, responding to public submissions, EES Inquiry and Advisory Committee hearings, EPBC Act referrals, preparation and finalisation of the Public Environment Report under the EPBC Act, land acquisition, access and assembly, securing State and Federal approvals, defending a legal challenge to the State planning approval, through to project procurement for the primary and secondary package, development and delivery.
- Sydney Metro: Sydney Metro is Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure program. We have advised on every single Sydney Metro project to date – CBD Metro, Sydney Metro Northwest, Sydney Metro City & Southwest, Sydney Metro West, Sydney Metro Western Sydney Airport, and most recently CBD & Pyrmont. Our work on these projects has ranged from project approvals through to large-scale property acquisition and subsequent litigation.
- Cross River Rail: Cross River Rail is the Queensland Government's Number 1 priority infrastructure project which involves a railway line, including a tunnel under the Brisbane River and CBD, connecting northern and southern rail networks. We have advised on all environmental and planning aspects of the project to date, as well as on broader precinct development around the stations, and the business case for Brisbane Live, a proposed new entertainment precinct in close proximity to one of the new stations.
- Western Sydney Airport: We advised the Australian Government on environmental and sustainability aspects of the proposed Western Sydney International (Nancy Bird Walton) Airport – Australia's first new international airport in decades. Our role included assistance with legislative amendments to provide an assessment and approval scheme for new airports, advising on approvals strategies and master planning, advising on the environmental assessment and stakeholder processes, assisting to embed sustainability into assessments and contractual arrangements, and addressing a wide range of environmental issues. We're currently assisting with aspects of the implementation of the airport plan.
- Muswellbrook Renewable Energy Technology Precinct: We are advising Idemitsu Renewables on a flagship energy transition project in the Hunter Valley involving the development of a renewable energy technology precinct at the oldest mine site in New South Wales, which is closing in 2022. To date we have advised on planning approval pathways for a significant pumped hydro project, a state significant solar farm proposal, a proposed hydrogen pilot plant near the Jemena gas pipeline, and options for a green powered industrial development precinct. We have also been advising on rehabilitation, repurposing and modification of existing approvals to facilitate the future development.
- Sun Cable Project: We're advising the Northern Territory Government on this A$22 billion project, one of the world's largest renewable energy systems and the world’s first intercontinental power grid, connecting Australia to Singapore to supply 24/7 renewable power. The project involves the world’s largest solar farm and battery storage facility in the Northern Territory, with a 5,000 km transmission system to supply Darwin and Singapore.
- Star of the South Offshore Windfarm Project: We advised the Danish fund manager Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners on its partnership with Australia's Offshore Energy Ltd and the development of the proposed A$8 billion 2GW "Star of the South" project – Australia's first offshore windfarm and the largest offshore windfarm proposed for the Southern Hemisphere. Our work has included due diligence, environmental impact assessment and approvals issues, planning approvals, environmental risk allocation, land acquisition and tenure issues.
- Kawasaki Heavy Industries Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Pilot Project: We're advising on the development of a pilot plant and supply chain for the production of hydrogen energy from coal sources in Victoria, to liquefy and supply to Japan. Our work included advice on the planning and environmental strategy and approvals and securing relevant approvals. The project will also involve, if commercialised, carbon capture and sequestration aspects as well as unique shipping issues relating to the transportation of liquefied hydrogen to Japan.
- Transgrid: We're advising on planning and environmental approvals, property acquisition and Native Title issues for Project EnergyConnect which involves the construction of a high voltage interconnector approximately 900 kilometres long between the power grids of South Australia and New South Wales, with an option connection to Victoria. EnergyConnect aims to secure increased electricity transmission between SA, NSW and Victoria, while facilitating the longer-term transition of the energy sector across the National Electricity Market (NEM) to low emission energy sources.
Energy & resources
- Australia Pacific LNG: We advised on all environmental approvals and EIS process aspects of its Queensland CSG to LNG project, the largest LNG project in Queensland. Our work included the environmental approvals and ongoing environment and planning advice for the project and related infrastructure.
- Idemitsu Australia: We have advised on all environment and planning aspects for ongoing operation and rehabilitation of its mining projects in Queensland and New South Wales including water security, biodiversity offsets and compliance with approvals.
- EnergyAustralia: We've advised Energy Australia for more than 10 years on the environmental and planning aspects of its operations, including on the future rehabilitation of the Yallourn mine, one of Victoria's largest coal mines which is due to close within the next decade, and the ongoing operation of the power station.
- Graymont: Graymont is a global leader in the supply of lime and limestone products. We were part of a Clayton Utz team that advised on the Australian aspects of its acquisition (in joint venture with Grupo Calidra) of the global lime and limestone business of the Belgium-based Sibelco group to extend Graymont's global reach in the Asia-Pacific region. We continue to advise on environment and planning aspects of its New South Wales, Queensland and Victorian operations, such as operational issues and changes in law relating to financial assurance, rehabilitation requirements and development approval issues. Additionally, we have been advising on a solar project at one of its sites and emerging ESG regulatory risks, including emissions reduction strategies.
Urban renewal and property development
- Barangaroo: Barangaroo is one of the world’s foremost waterfront renewal projects. The 22 hectare, $6 billion Barangaroo precinct redefined the western edge of Sydney Harbour. We advised the New South Wales Government on all environment and planning aspects of the Barangaroo South and Headland Park development including development approvals, remediation relating to the former gasworks located within the development site, and successfully settled or won a number of planning appeals and a contamination dispute during the development phase.
- Parramatta Square: Located in western Sydney, Parramatta Square is one of Australia's largest urban renewal projects. We advised on planning aspects of the $2 billion mixed-use development, which includes significant public domain space for community use. This included advising on a planning proposal pathway, planning uplift issues and issues associated with a developer failing to tank a car park basement properly or obtain development approval for it.
- Sydney Science Park: The Sydney Science Park is one of the most significant greenfield development projects in Australia, in terms of its scale, complexity, opportunities for innovation and location within the Western Sydney Aerotropolis. We are advising Celestino Pty Limited on the development, to create a mixed-use smart precinct that will be an internationally recognised epicentre for research, development, commercialisation and innovation.
- Dahua Group: We have advised the Dahua Group, a major international developer, since its early days in Australia. We've assisted Dahua with major land acquisitions for greenfield and urban renewal projects across the Sydney metropolitan area and in Brisbane, development strategies, precinct development, rezoning proposals, approvals, integration with other developments, infrastructure contribution and delivery mechanisms, contract management, regulator relations and divestments.
Planning & environment litigation
- Infrastructure NSW (formerly Barangaroo Delivery Authority): We settled three sets of planning and environment litigation and negotiated a complex settlement of a long-standing dispute regarding responsibility for historical contamination which occurred during the mid-1800s and early 1900s and the payment for the remediation of the former gasworks site at Barangaroo.
- NSW Health and Sydney Local Health District: we successfully represented Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) in Supreme Court and Court of Appeal proceedings over the construction of a large private hospital next to the Royal Prince Alfred Precinct. The critical part of the dispute turned on planning law matters, specifically, whether SLHD as landowner was entitled to refuse consent to the developer's modification application to its original 1997 development consent and whether the promulgated timetable allowed sufficient time for key planning steps such as obtaining a modified development consent to be met. Litigation covered the fields of architecture, planning, traffic, acoustics, private certifier/structural engineer, programming, financial advisory, project finance and quantity surveying.
- Optus: We successfully represented Optus in Planning & Environment Court (Qld) and State Administrative Tribunal (WA) proceedings regarding its telecommunications facilities and providing strategic advice in relation to its proposed developments.
- Blacktown City Council: We represented Council in a series of proceedings relating to the development contributions payable for major property development project. The disputes related to the operation of development contributions plans and State Government caps on contributions via Ministerial directions. Council was successful on appeal proceedings and in its defence of legal challenges to its contributions plans and its decision-making about development contributions. During and shortly after these matters, there were important changes to Ministerial directions and regulations addressing many of the issues which these matters raised.
- Property development appeals: We act for many property developers in appealing decisions on their applications for approvals, and for approval authorities defending such decisions. As with all dispute work, our approach is on understanding our clients' objectives in the appeal and more broadly, and tailoring our work to achieve those objectives.
We have a deep and pragmatic understanding of large scale property acquisition programs for major infrastructure projects, the unique legal, commercial and technical issues that may arise, and the most effective ways in which to manage them. We have acted for acquiring authorities including Sydney Metro, Transport for NSW (including Roads and Maritime Services and various rail authorities), Transgrid, Sydney Water, WaterNSW, NSW Health, NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Victorian Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, and numerous local government authorities.
Our more recent large-scale property acquisition work includes:
- Sydney Metro, Sydney Gateway and M12 Motorway for the New South Wales Government;
- North East Link and the West Gate Tunnel Projects for the Victorian Government;
- The Inland Rail Program which traverses Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland; and
- Project EnergyConnect for Transgrid.
In collaboration with our Forensic & Technology Services team, we developed an automation tool called AcquiRE, to streamline data management for large-scale property acquisition. This tool automatically tracks acquisition documentation from various sources and sends and receives communication with the affected parties. You can learn more about AcquiRE here.
Large-scale land acquisition programs often involve litigation, usually in relation to compensation decisions and occasionally in the form of legal challenges to a step in the acquisition process. We have extensive experience in all forms of dispute resolution relating to land acquisition programs, and we have developed efficient systems for reaching strong outcomes which support our clients' acquisition objectives.
We also have considerable experience acting for landowners whose land is acquired. We assist our clients here with negotiating favourable outcomes from the acquisition process and, where appropriate, any appeals which follow.
- Clean Energy Regulator: We have advised the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) on a variety of matters relating to Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs), including:
- a standardised contact for reverse auctions proposed for the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), which included drafting and advice in relation to the contract, partnering with a consultant expert in energy markets, engaging with a range of public and private sector stakeholders on the operation of the ERF scheme and the proposed contract, advising on targeted consultation, attending ERF workshops in two States, and liaising with the CER and the Department of Environment and Energy;
- the interaction of projects under the Carbon Credits (Carbon Faming Initiative) Act 2011 with mining and onshore petroleum entitlements under State and Territory laws;
- State and Territory approval requirements for carbon farming projects.
- WaterNSW: We are advising on the water trading and water entitlements system in NSW and the processes involved in dealing with water, as well as working with other agencies to promote a holistic approach to water entitlements, trading and use.
- Australian Rail Track Corporation: As one of Australia's largest ever regional infrastructure projects (1,700km across three States), Inland Rail has significant water needs and one of Australia's largest and most comprehensive biodiversity offset requirements. In relation to water, we have advised on regulatory and transactional issues, assisting ARTC develop a sophisticated approach to satisfying its water needs and providing legacy benefits for local communities. In relation to biodiversity, we have assisted in developing a sophisticated offsets strategy which proposes strong environmental outcomes combined with efficient offsets delivery.
- Transgrid: We are advising on a broad range of biodiversity issues for Project EnergyConnect which involves the construction of a high voltage interconnector approximately 900 kilometres long between the power grids of South Australia and New South Wales, with an option connection to Victoria. This has included advising on biodiversity credits including new arrangements with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for meeting its obligations.
Waste and circular economy
- South Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils: We advised Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) on the existing barriers and potential opportunities arising from a legislative and policy review of waste and resource recovery law in NSW in advance of the NSW Government launch of the 20-year waste strategy. We identified 19 different recommendations that were presented to SSROC and NSW Government.
- Energy from Waste Facility: The Next Generation (NSW) Pty Ltd proposes to develop an energy from waste facility at Eastern Creek in Blacktown, NSW – the first of its kind in the State and a State significant development. Given our experience in the energy and waste industries and the scale of the matter, we were engaged by Council in opposing the project on environmental, health and social grounds.
- Container Deposit Schemes: We are recognised as the leading legal advisers nationally on container deposit schemes, as a key contributor to waste reduction and the delivery of a circular economy. We have been appointed by State Governments in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria to advise on the establishment of each State's scheme, including reviewing draft scheme legislation and advising on planning strategies for scheme sites.
- Various: We have advised clients on highly confidential projects involving the transfrontier shipment of hazardous waste overseas for further processing and/or disposal.
- HammondCare: HammondCare is a world leader in aged care and the care of people with dementia in particular. Greenwich Hospital is one of HammondCare's most significant assets and provides critically important services in the Sydney metropolitan area. We have advised on the redevelopment of Greenwich Hospital in northern Sydney. Our work has included advice on the development of approval strategies, assistance in devising project revisions to address regulatory agency and community concerns, review of assessment documents, advice on liaising with regulatory agencies, approval conditions and long-term implementation.
- New South Wales Health Hospital Projects: We are advising on the proposed acquisition of land for critical health infrastructure in Rouse Hill in Sydney and Shoalhaven on the New South Wales south coast. For Rouse Hill our work has involved comprehensive property due diligence, preparation of an acquisition strategy, advice on project agreements, and assistance with negotiations and initiating Supreme Court proceedings for the excision of the required land from the community scheme. For the Shoalhaven Hospital Redevelopment we are advising on the acquisition process for Crown land and compensation. These projects are critical to provide expanded clinical services and capacity to meet the healthcare needs of the growing north western Sydney community and the south-east coastal region of NSW.
- City West Housing: We have advised CWH, an important affordable housing provider in Sydney on the implications of the build to rent provisions and a number of their development sites for affordable and social housing in Sydney.
- nbn: We advised on a range of range of planning and environmental matters and disputes associated with the roll-out of the National Broadband Network, one of the largest ever infrastructure projects undertaken in Australia, across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
- Western Sydney University: We're advising the University on a variety of innovative asset renewal projects and the creation of new special purpose precincts, in partnership with commercial and government parties, around metropolitan Sydney. Campuses include Westmead, Werrington, Liverpool and Bankstown. Our advice covers strategic planning, land use and contamination issues, development contributions and infrastructure delivery, land acquisitions, and embedding sustainability into various aspects of the projects.