Environmental Planning Updates

July 2019

Summary Environmental Report and EGN 174B Summary Environmental Report Guidance Notes

Further changes have been made to the SER form and V1.19 is now published. Changes include minor amendments to the notification requirements, decommissioning substations and various minor legislative changes.

Corresponding changes have been made to EGN 174B SER Guidance Notes.

Please ensure all new SERs are completed using V1.19 of the form. V1.18 SERs that are currently in progress will be accepted if submitted by COB 31/10/2019.  

V1.19 of the SER and the updated guidance notes are available here http://enviro.ausgrid.com.au/Documents/Guidelines.aspx


Environmental Planning Calculator

The Approvals Process Calculator has recently been reviewed, updated and renamed the Environmental Planning Calculator.

This update involved a full review against current legislation. The process for assessing Aboriginal heritage has been updated and there is a new optional compliance checklist. Some questions have been reordered and links updated.

The Environmental Planning Calculator is available here https://enviro.ausgrid.com.au/Documents/Calculators


 WebGIS EL New Layers
  1. Biodiversity Values Map - an OEH map that identifies land with high biodiversity value that is particularly sensitive to impacts from development and clearing. Examples of land included are:
    • old growth forests
    • land containing rainforests
    • land that contains vegetation connectivity features or threatened species habitat
    • land containing high conservation value grasslands or other groundcover
  2. Hunter Valley Flood Mitigation Scheme Development Consent Areas - provides development requirements for working within a 10m buffer of a levee, drainage channel and 50m of a spill way.


WebGIS EL Layers Removed

  1. Fauna Habitat and Corridors has been replaced by the Biodiversity Values Map.


Important Notes

WebGIS EL Reporting - It is mandatory to generate a WebGIS EL report for all components of a project. These report/s must be attached to the SER before the SER is submitted. Where a project is found to have inadequate WebGIS EL reporting, it will not be verified until a suitable report/s has been generated and all environmental constraints are addressed in the SER.

Character Limit - Each field in the SER form has a 4000 character limit.

SER Assessors - Only authorised SER assessors are permitted to prepare and submit SERs. To gain authorisation you will need to successfully complete Ausgrid’s SER training course. 

SER Pull backs
– SER pull back requests should be made by the original SER assessor. Where this is not possible the original assessor should be cc'd on the request email, or a reason must be given why the original assessor is not making the request (eg left the company). SERs are legal documents and we need to ensure document control is appropriately managed.

- False and misleading claims on SERs could lead to fines of up to $5.5M under environmental legislation.

March 2019

SER V1.18 Reminder

From the 1st of April Ausgrid will only be accepting V1.18 of the SER form.

Ensure you download a new copy of the SER form from the Environmental Planning website for each project. Amending a previously completed SER form can generate errors and an unsuccessful registration with the form centre.

The form is best completed using a recent version of Adobe Reader or Adobe Professional.

V1.18 is available here http://enviro.ausgrid.com.au/Documents/Guidelines.aspx

November 2018

SER V1.18 Roll Out

V1.18 has been published and is available on the Environmental Planning website > http://enviro.ausgrid.com.au/Documents/Guidelines.aspx
For those that already have an SER in draft, Ausgrid will accept V1.17 until the end of March 2019. However all new SERs should be completed using V1.18.
We are experiencing some technical issues, Ausgrid outlook is blocking some ASPs SERs as malware. You will receive and error message when submitting the SER if this occurs. Ausgrid's IT team are investigating. We apologise to those affected.

SER Refresher Training

We are aware that many assessors are due for refresher training. Details regarding how to complete your refresher training will be distributed soon.

Coastal Wetlands and Littoral Rainforests (SEPP Coastal Management 2018)

Works proposed to be undertaken in a Coastal Wetland or Littoral Rainforest will require Council consent. In these cases contact Environmental Services.

Works proposed to be undertaken in a Coastal Wetland or Littoral Rainforest Proximity Area will need to assess the risk of impacting the adjacent coastal wetland or littoral rainforest. Contact Environmental Services if the works could impact the coastal wetland or littoral rainforest.

Where there is no risk of impacting the adjacent coastal wetland or littoral rainforest acknowledge the proximity of the works to the area in Section 1.12 and 2.2 and continue with your SER.

SER Tips

Where to start

Firstly complete an Approvals Process Calculator report to determine whether an SER is required, and whether there are any additional planning approval requirements or external approvals / licenses or notification requirements.


Avoiding delays

To help avoid delays it is recommended that SERs are started at the early concept stage. SERs can be assessed using a concept design that accurately illustrates the location of environmental impacts sufficient to be able to assess the impacts and notify Council and others. Starting early can help identify any required approvals and permits and allows sufficient time to provide and consider any submissions. Note however where designs are changed, the SER will need to be updated.

Project information

The project name should reflect the project name on the design drawing and include the asset number where known (e.g. sub or feeder number).
The project numbers must not include symbols such as '&'.

Table 2 Level 3 triggers

Level 3 triggers such as Aboriginal heritage and threatened species are still the responsibility of the assessor. The role of Environmental Services is to provide advice and guidance to the assessor only e.g. the assessor is responsible for obtaining any necessary assessments or reports for the project e.g. Aboriginal heritage site cards and due diligence assessment or arborist / ecological reports. When clearing native vegetation or working within the buffer of an Aboriginal site, a specialist assessment is likely to be required.

Activities that are part of a larger development

Where the project is the electrical component of a larger development, check the Part 4 assessment or development application to determine if any of the components of project are covered by the existing approval e.g. civil works such as trenching and conduit installation for utilities may already be approved.

Alternatively there may be a component that falls within the meaning of exempt development (Clause 20 and 20A of the Infrastructure SEPP) and therefore does not need to be assessed in the SER and the exempt activity can take place before the SER has been approved e.g. installation of cables in existing conduits if the installation involves no greater soil or vegetation disturbance than necessary.

In both of these cases the scope of the SER would only cover the remaining electrical works e.g. kiosks or pillar install.

Contestability Project Coordinator (CPC)

For ASPs - keep your CPC informed by ensuring you cc them into all email correspondence.

For SER Referrals (for level 3 issues) or other environmental planning issues, please contact ESU: environmentalservices@ausgrid.com.au



October 2018

Updated SER V1.18 and SER Guidance Notes

The SER and the SER Guidance Notes have been updated following a legal review to ensure compliance with the relevant legislative requirements and the Planning Code.

Key updates include:

  1. additional points and amendments to the Notes section.
  2. additional prefilled text within Table 1
  3. text revision throughout.
  4. and other minor amendments.

SER v1.18 and the updated SER Guidance Notes are available on the Environmental Planning Page.

August 2018

Updated Approvals Process Calculator (V28.1)

The Approvals Process Calculator has been updated to reflect recent amendments to the SEPP (Infrastructure). Changes include:

  • notification is now required in mine subsidence areas (unless exempt)
  • exempt development must not involve demolition of a registered heritage item
  • removal of asbestos must comply with specific guidelines
  • 'without consent' now includes installation of overhead lines and access tracks (this was unclear under the previous version)
  • there is no requirement to notify occupiers for 'exempt development'
  • the 'exempt development' cut off for a range of activities is now >66kV (previously it was 33kV)
  • 'exempt development' now includes maintainence of all powerlines (previously only applied to distribution lines)
  • 'exempt development' now includes installation of conductors on existing structure unless the primary purpose is to increase capacity
  • updated to include new vegetation requirements (see below)
  • updated the list of other approvals which may be required (eg SOPA, bores etc)


New SEPP (Vegetation in non rural areas)

Under the new SEPP (Vegetation in non rural areas) a permit is required from council or the Native Vegetation Panel (NVP) for clearing native vegetation in 'urban areas' and in certain zonings. Exceptions to this requirement include:

  • Exempt development (must be in accordance with a TSMP)

  • Works in National Parks estate and other conservation areas (alternative OEH approval requirements apply)

  • Part 4, 5, or 5.1 (ie DA consent, Verified SER or Verified REF that includes the vegetation clearing)

  • Bushfire risk mitigation works

  • NVP is satisfied that tree is dead/dying

  • Council is satisfied that risk to life or property

  • Vegetation is not declared by a development control plan (DCP) to be vegetation to which this part applies (Existing DCPs will continue to have effect until new DCPs are developed)

NOTE: A similar list of exemptions apply in rural areas (permit requirements in rural areas are contained in the Local Land Service Act)

Mine Subsidence Legislation changes

1. Development on land in a mine subsidence district has been added to the list of specified development in SEPP Infrastructure 2007. All works subject to approval (i.e not exempt development) require 21 days written notice of intention to carry out the work to be provided to the Subsidence Advisory NSW.

2. The Mine Subsidence Compensation Act 1961 has been repealed and replaced with the Coal Mine Subsidence Compensation Act 2017. The list of minor works (such as distribution projects) that were previously exempt from SA NSW approval no longer applies. Approval is required to alter or erect improvements within a mine subsidence district or to subdivide land therein. An ‘improvement’ includes any building work or work erected or constructed on land, any formed road, street, path, walk or drive-way and any pipeline, water, sewer, telephone, gas or other service main, whether above or below the surface of the land.

Ausgrid activities that do not involve the alteration or erection of improvements do not require SANSW approval. This would include emergency works, routine maintenance works and the above or below co-location of cabling on or within existing infrastructure.

SANSW have advised that in some areas the mines are ~3m below the surface. In this regard they are not concerned about stringing conductors on existing poles or changing crossarms etc. In other cases such as new poles/lines they are happy to accept a quick email advising of the nature of the works. In most cases they will respond that no approval will be required.

Coastal Management SEPP

The SEPP (Coastal Management) is now in force and includes a broader definition of works requiring consent.

Development consent is now required for any development (other than maintenance and emergency works) within a Coastal Wetland (previously SEPP 14) or Littoral Rainforest (previously SEPP 26). Previously consent was only required for clearing, filling, constructing a levee, draining.

Maintenance and emergency works are exempt from the need for consent, however, will require a Part 5 assessment specifically in these areas. 

Coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests are now mapped on the WebGIS-EL.

ASP authorisation and WebGIS EL training

In the December planning update ASP3s were reminded that they need to be authorised to access Ausgrid's Network information and that WebGIS EL training must be completed to maintain SER training certification.

You can check to see if you have any outstanding training requirements by logging rel="noopener noreferrer" into Ausgrid's new Learning Management System.

The Company ID is "ausgrid" and the User ID is your H number with a capital H (eg H12345678). For your first login the password is also your H number (capital H) and you will be prompted to change this.

More information on the Ausgrid authorisation process can be found on Authorisation section of the Ausgrid website.

If you are unsure if you have completed the training or have questions regarding the authorisation process, please email environmentalservices@ausgrid.com.au.

SER tip - when changes are required before verification

Changes to a SER prior to verification does not always require a pull back. The system is designed so that you can amend the assessed copy and forward that amended version directly to the verifier.

Exceptions to this process include when the project name or number need to be amended or if the assessor changes mid way through the assessment. These changes will require the SER to be pulled back and a new version to be submitted.

For SER Referrals (for level 3 issues) or other environmental planning issues, please contact ESU: environmentalservices@ausgrid.com.au


December 2017

Updated SER following the release of the New Environmental Handbook 

The SER and the SER Guidance Notes have been updated to align with the new edition of NS174C Environmental Handbook for Construction and Maintenance. Key improvements include: 
- changes to the environmental controls to align with the requirements in the new Environmental Handbook
- updated section references to the new Environmental Handbook within Table 2 of the SER
- included information about asbestos, lead and other hazardous materials (see below)
- updated information in relation to works in Sydney Harbour Foreshore Areas
- updated information regarding the Ausgrid movable heritage process and requirements for tier 1 and tier 2 equipment 
- new information regarding the Biodiversity Conservation Act and biodiversity stewardship sites

Environmental controls within the WebGIS Environmental Layers (WebGIS EL) reporting tool have also been updated to align with the new edition of the Environmental Handbook.

SER v1.17 and the updated SER Guidance Notes are available on the Environmental Planning Page http://enviro.ausgrid.com.au/Documents/Guidelines.aspx


WebGIS updated to include hazardous materials 

The WebGIS EL has recently being updated to include known occurrences of asbestos, lead and other hazardous materials. After selecting an occurrence, the left hand information panel provides a direct link to the record in the asbestos register. 

Any work with the potential to disturb hazardous materials must be undertaken in accordance with WHS requirements, relevant Ausgrid Task Specific training and:
- NS211 Working with asbestos products 
- Be Safe HG-01 Asbestos 
- Be Safe HG-18 Workplace Hazardous Substances 
- Be Safe HG-20 Lead 
- Be Safe HG-21 Synthetic Mineral Fibre.

Requirements for asbestos removal work include: 
- All friable asbestos removal and non-friable asbestos removal of >10 square metres must only be undertaken by an independent Licenced Asbestos Removalist (unless in accordance with an approved exemption)
- Movement of more than 100 kilograms of asbestos waste or more than 10 square metres of asbestos sheeting requires EPA waste tracking. Equipment that contains asbestos is classified as ACM and is subject to the weight requirements for the waste tracking.
- Non-friable asbestos removal ≤ 10 square metres per job can be undertaken by Ausgrid workers who have undertaken the required training, and are competent and have the required PPE and safety equipment.

More information is available in the WebGIS-EL and Asbestos Register fact sheets that are located on the Environmental Planning website.


ASP authorisation and WebGIS EL training 

ASP3s are reminded that they need to be authorised to access Ausgrid's Network information and that the WebGIS EL training must be completed to maintain SER training certification. Both requirements need to be completed by 31 January 2018.

More information on the Ausgrid authorisation process can be found on Ausgrid's authorisation page on the website.

WebGIS EL training is available on Ausgrid's elearning site. There are multiple WebGIS EL training packages to choose from depending on your role - be sure to complete the correct module.

If you are unsure if you have completed the training or have questions regarding the authorisation process, please email environmentalservices@ausgrid.com.au


SER audit results - areas for improvement  

The latest SER audit results show that the top three areas for improvement are:
1. Capturing all issues identified in the WebGIS EL report - Environmental issues identified in the WebGIS EL report should be captured in Table 2 of the SER, with the relevant controls specified.
2. WebGIS EL reports must be current - WebGIS EL reports are only valid for 6 months. If this period elapses, a new report will need to be attached and any new constraints investigated.
3. Adding all attachments - Mandatory attachments include the design drawing and WebGIS EL report. The WebGIS EL report must cover the work area being assessed.

Overall the SER FY17 audit program showed an improvement in the quality of assessments to previous years. Thank you for your concerted effort.


January 2014

*EIA Refresher Training is now delivered online*
As you know, Ausgrid's EIA Training is mandatory for all Ausgrid staff and Accredited Service Providers (ASPs) who prepare EIA Worksheets. In addition to undertaking the initial EIA Training course, to maintain your qualification you must undertake a refresher EIA Training course.
EIA Refresher Training is now delivered online and is required to be undertaken every year.  Previously it was delivered face-to-face every two years.
To ensure all Ausgrid staff and ASPs who prepare EIA Worksheets have the same level of training, everyone is required to undertake the new online EIA Refresher Training module, regardless of when you last attended a face-to-face course.  
Please complete the EIA Refresher Training module by 31 March 2014.
To undertake the course:
1. Click here to enter Ausgrid's eLearning website -> elearning.ausgrid.com.au
2. Login as an Ausgrid staff member using your T number or a Non-Ausgrid ASP using your ID number (email environmentalservices@ausgrid.com.au if you are unsure of your ID number) .
3. Go to 'Health/Safety Environment' -> 'Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Refresher' 
4. Click on 'Launch' to commence the module. You will undertake a test at the end of the module to test your knowledge. It will take you approximately 1 hour to complete the module.
The online EIA Refresher Training course will be updated with key changes to the EIA process on an annual basis. 
For technical training assistance with the eLearning website, please email learning@ausgrid.com.au
Refer to Ausgrid's Environmental Planning website for further information (enviro.ausgrid.com.au/EIA-Worksheet-Training.aspx).  
*EIA Initial Training*
Initial EIA Training courses are now available at Homebush depot on 19 March 2014 and Wallsend administration building on 12 February 2014.
Refer to Ausgrid's Environmental Planning website for information on how to register.

November 2013

*EIA Refresher Training will be delivered on-line from early 2014*
As you know, Ausgrid's EIA Training is mandatory for all Ausgrid staff and Accredited Service Providers (ASPs) who prepare EIA Worksheets. In addition to undertaking the initial EIA Training course, to maintain your qualification you must undertake a refresher EIA Training course every two years.

As of early 2014 the refresher EIA Training course will be delivered on-line on Ausgrid's eLearning website.  Further information regarding this refresher course, including how to undertake it, will be communicated prior to the end of this year.  In the interim, if you receive notification that your qualification in EIA Training is due to expire, you do not need to contact Environmental Services to book in to an upcoming refresher EIA Training course. Keep an eye out for an upcoming Environmental Planning Update instructing you on how to undertake the refresher EIA Training course on-line once it is available.

October 2013

*Electrical Infrastructure works and Development Applications*
Electrical infrastructure works included in the scope of a Development Application (DA) under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment 1979 (EP&A Act) do not need an EIA Worksheet to be prepared under Part 5 of the EP&A Act. However, the installation of electrical infrastructure works will be subject to any conditions of the DA.
A developer/ASP may wish to use this process to streamline the approvals process. However, sometimes complying with unintended DA conditions can be more onerous than completing an EIA Worksheet. Further, this process will only be allowed where ESU verify that the scope of works in the DA accurately covers the scope of electrical infrastructure works. 
Information on what to include in the scope can be found in EGN 174B EIA Guidance Notes.

August 2013

*Notification Requirements*
Ausgrid has to comply with notification requirements under the Electricity Supply Act 1995, SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). Key requirements include:
- 40 days notice must be provided to local council for electricity works that are not routine repairs or maintenance or emergency works,
- 21 days notice must be provided to authorities, local council and occupiers of adjoining land if the works meet certain criteria,
- due consideration must be given to any submissions received within these periods,
- an EIA Worksheet can not be verified until the 21/40 day notification periods have ended, regardless of whether responses have been received.
Notification FAQ and a range of standard template letters for notification can be found on Ausgrid's Environmental Planning website. 
*Options Analysis Calculator*
What do you do when you've got multiple options with competing criteria and you're trying to choose the best one? Multi criteria analysis is one tool that can help you cut through to a decision. To assist with those tricky substation and powerline placements we've developed a simple spreadsheet called the Options Analysis Calculator. It's located on our Environmental Planning website and could be adapted for other purposes too! 
The Options Analysis Calculator is available on Ausgrid's Environmental Planning website. 
*Controlled Activity Approvals - Clarification*
Ausgrid has received clarification from the Office of Water regarding if contestable works undertaken by Accredited Service Providers (ASPs) are exempt from having to obtain a controlled activity approval under theWater Management Act 2000. In summary, if the works meet all of the following criteria, a controlled activity approval is not required:
- the proposed works are carried out on behalf of Ausgrid
- Ausgrid approves the design/specification for the proposed works
- Ausgrid signs off on that the work is complete as per the certified design.
Ausgrid considers contestable works to be carried out on behalf of Ausgrid, which allows them to be assessed under Part 5 of the EP&A Act. As such, contestable work does not require a controlled activity approval.
EGN174B EIA Guidance Notes, available on Ausgrid's Environmental Planning website, will be updated to reflect this change.

July 2013

*Controlled Activity Approvals under the Water Management Act 2000*
Approval is generally required to undertake a 'controlled activity' within 40 m of a water body. Ausgrid is exempt from this approval as a public authority, however third parties do not benefit from this exemption when undertaking works on their own behalf. This includes works undertaken under a development application or other approval, even when the works will be handed over to a public authority after completion.
Third parties need to obtain approval for these 'controlled activities' when within 40 m of a water body (river, creek, canal, ocean, lake):
- the erection of a building or the carrying out of work (within the meaning of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979), or
- the removal of material  (whether or not extractive material) or vegetation from land, whether by way of excavation or otherwise, or
- the deposition of material (whether or not extractive material) on land, whether by way of landfill operations or otherwise, or
- the carrying out of any other activity that affects the quantity or flow of water in a water source.
Third parties can contact their local NSW Office of Water water regulatory officer to obtain a 'controlled activity' approval. They will need to complete an Application For a Controlled Activity Approval for Works on Waterfront Land.
*Decommissioning Substations*
The Contaminated Site Assessment Checklist (EF 17430) was recently re-released, as notified in the Planning Update in June.  Since its release we've received feedback seeking clarification on what is required when decommissioning distribution substations on road reserves. The checklist has been updated in response to this feedback. 
Updates include:
- clarification around decommissioning and when a checklist is required
- additional guidance for indicators of contamination 
- clarification of sensitive areas for future land use
- photo evidence is now required for all checklists.
Decommissioning of a distribution substation with no evidence of contamination and no known oil spills or leaks and which is located within the road reserve does not require referral to Environmental Services. Simply complete the checklist and file it in the project file. 
*Where to get the current EIA Worksheet for a project*
Ausgrid’s TIBCO Form Centre is the database that stores all current EIA Worksheets. If you are unsure if the EIA Worksheet you have for a project is the most current version, follow the below steps to obtain the current version of the EIA Worksheet.
- send an email to TIBCO Form Centre at the following address: eforms@ausgrid.com.au
- the subject of the mail should state: Get project PROJECT NUMBER
A verified EIA Worksheet is a legal document. As such, it is essential that the most current version of an EIA Worksheet is on site prior to construction or maintenance works commencing.

June 2013

*Decommissioning Substations*
What's new - The Contaminated Site Assessment Checklist (EF 17430) is back! This checklist is used to assess the potential for contamination and determining further investigation is required prior to decommissioning distribution substations. This checklist demonstrates we have met our legal obligations.
What you need to do - Prior to decommissioning a distribution substation, you must visit the site and complete the checklist. If there is no potential contamination or risk to private property or a sensitive land use, then attach the completed checklist to the EIA Worksheet. If there is a risk identified, then email the completed checklist and photos to environmentalservices@ausgrid.com.au. We will advise if further action is required. Once approved, the completed checklist must be attached to the EIA.
*EIA Worksheet Mandatory Attachments*
What's new - Environmental Services recently undertook an audit of some EIA Worksheets that were verified in the past year. It was great to see the overall quality of EIAs are improving, however many did not have these mandatory documents attached prior to verification:
- Env GIS Analytical Report
- design plans
What you need to do - Always attach the above documents to an EIA Worksheet to ensure sensitive environmental issues listed on the Env GIS Analytical Report have been identified and the EIA covers the appropriate scope of works as illustrated in the design plans. Other documents will need to be attached as required, such as the Contaminated Site Assessment Checklist, approvals, permits etc. 
Environmental Services will continue to regularly audit EIA Worksheets. Those without the required documents attached will be pulled back and the assessor or verifier will be asked to attach the required documents prior to verifying it again. The best way to prepare a good EIA, is to follow EGN 174B EIA Guidance Notes.
*EIA Worksheet Referral to Environmental Services*
What's new - All EIA Worksheets requiring verification by Environmental Services must be sent to environmentalservices@ausgrid.com.au. This will ensure that all EIA Worksheets are allocated to an appropriate Environmental Officer within a timely manner while also avoiding duplication in Environmental Services review of the EIA Worksheet. 
What you need to do - Only refer EIA Worksheets to Environmental Services that have trigger areas in Tables 2A or 3A, or have a risk rating greater than 29 in Table 4. EIA Worksheets that are incorrectly sent to Environmental Services will be sent back. To save you time and effort, use EGN 174B EIA Guidance Notes while preparing your EIA Worksheet for example text, help with risk ratings, as well as other important information. View the Guidance Notes online because it is regularly updated to ensure we have the latest information available. You can also access this information by clicking the 'i' button in the EIA Worksheet. 

March 2013

*Environmental Management on Connect*
Environmental Services has established an 'Environmental Management' subject on Connect. 
It is a place where you can find information and discuss environmental issues such as pollution, planning, ecology, EMF, noise, heritage, waste and contaminated land.
We recommend you follow 'Environmental Management' to get regular updates regarding environmental planning issues.