Ecologically sustainable development

Environment and economy thriving together

decorativeThere’s a common belief that protecting the environment comes at the expense of economic development – that when one benefits, the other loses.

Our first key focus area – ecologically sustainable development – lays to rest this idea that it’s a zero-sum game. We take part in government and industry decision-making about planning and land-use, always striving to have the environment and the economy thrive together. Our regulatory decisions use a ‘place-based’ approach and take a holistic view of ecosystems such as water catchments, airsheds, ecological communities and climatic regions.

The stories in this section show the work we’re doing to promote ecologically sustainable development.

What’s happening with forestry?

Officer measuring a tree. Photo: EPA

‘Ancient trees are precious,’ says renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. ‘There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism.’

The native forests of NSW are no exception. They’re complex natural ecosystems that give shelter to the wildlife within their boundaries. They also provide benefits to the NSW community and economy in the form of timber production. Management of native forests therefore needs to consider all needs.

Through policy, regulation and proactive compliance efforts during 2021–22, the EPA continued to influence, enforce and educate about ecologically sustainable forest management. We did this through a range of regulatory tools including audits, field inspections, investigations, desktop assessment, notices, orders, penalty notices and education.

Our aims were to promote native forestry operations’ compliance with integrated forestry operations approval conditions or private native forestry codes, and to reduce potential environmental harm.

We gave greatest attention to operations with higher environmental or regulatory risks. We use environmental risk criteria that can be adapted to emerging issues and trends in environmental compliance.

Our forestry work will continue to focus on maintaining ecological processes within forests and preserving their diversity, while still enabling a range of environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits for the NSW community.

Advising for the Aerotropolis

An artist’s impression of the Aerotropolis. Credit: DPEThe Western Sydney Aerotropolis is an area of land around the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport. It will be a thriving economic centre, creating about 100,000 new jobs and 11,400 new homes.

Planning the Aerotropolis has involved the development of the Aerotropolis Precinct Plan. The plan includes place-based objectives and environmental requirements. We’ve worked with other government agencies to set the environmental directions in the plan.

One of the important environmental outcomes involves the restoration of waterway health in the South Creek catchment. These restored waterways will become blue-green open space for the new Western Parkland City. They also respect the importance of the area to communities, including Aboriginal communities.

The next step will be the development of masterplans. We expect that certain activities in the Aerotropolis will need environment protection licences.

We’ve developed new risk-based tools to help guide our engagement in planning matters, and will use these to work out where the highest priorities are for working on the masterplans for the Aerotropolis.

Certain activities in the Aerotropolis will need an environment protection licence

‘There’s no doubt the Western Sydney Aerotropolis presents an opportunity to continue to seek ecologically sustainable development for Western Sydney,’ says Brendan Lloyd from the EPA’s Environmental Protection Planning Section. ‘We’ll target effort on those planning matters which pose the highest risk to the environment and human health.’

Breathing easy

Headshot of a young girl at the beachIn February 2022 the NSW Government released the NSW Clean Air Strategy 2021–30. This is aimed at improving air quality, reducing emissions and protecting communities.

The strategy sets out actions under five priority areas where the biggest gains for air quality and health can be made:

  • better preparedness for pollution events
  • cleaner industry
  • cleaner transport, engines and fuels
  • healthier homes
  • better places.

The strategy uses a whole-of-government approach. We’re working with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, and other agencies across government, to implement it.

‘Managing and reducing air pollution is an important part of ecologically sustainable development, especially for people’s health,’ says our Manager Environment Protection Policy, Michele Weight.