Downer maintained its Group-wide target of zero Level 51 or Level 62 environmental incidents and zero Significant Environmental Incidents3. Regrettably, Downer received one prosecution during FY21.
In FY21, Downer incurred one penalty infringement notice for environmental breaches which was an improvement on Downer’s performance over the past five years.
Downer New Zealand received a penalty infringement notice for NZ$750 ($696 AUD) for an environmental breach of the Resource Management Act 1991 involving the discharge of diesel into a stormwater drain near a waterway.
Downer New Zealand also pleaded guilty to two charges of the Resource Management Act 1991 for the burning of waste containing prohibited items at a depot in Hastings, located within Hawkes Bay Regional Council. Downer agreed to attend a Restorative Justice Conference with affected parties in March 2021. A copy of the report from this conference was presented in Court as a mitigating factor. In June, Downer was fined NZ$15,000 ($13,921 AUD). Downer also contributed an additional NZ$7,000 ($6,497 AUD) towards marketing Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s burning rules.
Last year, we disclosed that the Downer Seymour Whyte Joint Venture (DSWJV) was in the process of entering into an Enforceable Undertaking with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). In August and September 2019, there were three uncontrolled stormwater discharges to a nearby waterway from DSWJV’s construction site near Nowra, NSW. These discharges had the potential to cause harm to the environment. The incidents were identified and self-reported to the EPA by DSWJV. In FY20, the Enforceable Undertaking was formalised, committing DSWJV to:
- Improving staff training and increasing the frequency of environmental audits of its worksites
- Investing in environmental restoration of the local environment by supporting Land Care and Shoalhaven City Council.
In addition to the Enforceable Undertaking, DSWJV was required to pay the NSW EPA $9,500 for associated investigation and legal costs.
The Victorian Government will introduce the Environmental Protection Act 2017 from 1 July 2021 after its commencement was deferred by 12 months due to COVID-19. There are several changes being introduced, one of which is the General Environmental Duty (GED). This means every Downer employee has a personal obligation to manage risk and harm to human health and the environment. Downer’s suite of policies and procedures, aligned to The Downer Standard, have been written to meet these obligations. Another change is the introduction of the ‘Duty to Notify’ for certain pollution incidents, licence breaches and where there is land or groundwater contamination. This is similar to the laws in other jurisdictions of Australia, therefore Downer does not expect these changes to present any compliance risk. To prepare our Victorian operations for these changes, Downer’s Environment and Sustainability team has delivered targeted communications, training webinars and peer-to-peer knowledge sessions.
Environmental awareness training
Downer understands the importance of providing its frontline workers with appropriate environmental training and awareness. Downer has a long-standing partnership with GEMS, a registered training organisation that delivers a range of environmental training programs to Downer’s workforce. The more common programs delivered include: Advanced Environmental Awareness for Project Managers; Advanced Environmental Awareness for Zero Harm professionals; and Erosion and Sediment Control training. In FY21, a total of 1,096 training hours were delivered by GEMS, compared to 1,544 hours delivered in FY20. The reason for the decrease in FY21 was mainly due to COVID-19 restrictions and the reduction of online training delivery numbers.
Environmental Fines and Prosecutions
- A Level 5 environmental incident is defined as any incident that causes significant impact or serious harm on the environment, where material harm has occurred and if costs in aggregate exceed $50,000.
- A Level 6 environmental incident is defined as an incident that results in catastrophic widespread impact on the environment, resulting in irreversible damage.
- A significant environmental incident or significant environmental spill (≥ Level 4) is any environmental incident or spill where there is significant impact on or material harm to the environment; or an incident or spill that results in a significant impact or material harm; or there is long-term community irritation leading to disruptive actions and requiring continual management attention.