Downer implements procedures and processes to manage disturbance, spills, noise, vibration, dust, odour and fumes – and seeks to minimise or avoid these potential negative impacts near operations, sites and projects.
Downer implements reasonable and practicable measures to manage the impact of noise and vibration on the environment and communities in which we operate. This includes measures to limit noise and vibration detectable outside of the site boundaries, which exceeds legislative requirements and may affect the amenity of neighbours and the community. Downer communicates and engages with people potentially affected by the noise and vibration from our work.
The potential to generate noise and vibration needs is considered at the planning/design stage of any new worksite, or modifications to an existing site, plant or equipment. Controls must be identified and included in the site risk register.
The level of planning will be determined by the relevant authority and completed based on the principles of the noise hierarchy of control. Projects may require an acoustics specialist to assist in the development of management plans, task methodology and monitoring before, during works and post works.
Downer takes all reasonable and practicable measures to manage air emissions (such as dust and odour) from all activities conducted at fixed operations and construction worksites. The potential sources of air emissions need to be considered at the planning/design stages for any work. Before starting any work, air quality management requirements must be determined and included as part of the management plan.
At fixed sites, such as asphalt plants, Downer installs and uses equipment in line with best practice to minimise the generation of air emissions and ensure compliance with all air quality requirements. All reasonable steps are undertaken to minimise dust generated at these sites and to ensure that the site does not cause emissions of offensive odour beyond the site boundary.
Industrial processes, chemicals and waste can negatively impact the community and environment if inappropriately managed and cause land contamination. This is due to potential adverse health consequences, limits on land use, remediation costs and disruptions to socioeconomic activities (for example, agriculture and recreation areas). Downer works to ensure potential contamination risks are identified and managed for:
Downer also owns, occupies and operates facilities where historical activities have caused land and groundwater contamination. These include emulsion manufacturing, asphalt manufacturing, rail maintenance and Defence estates and base facilities. Downer’s exit from the Mining Services and Laundries businesses in recent years has lowered Downer’s land contamination risk profile.
Contamination liability is still a key consideration for Downer, in particular, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. Downer has a comprehensive insurance regime, which provides extensive cover for significant events. Downer holds two insurance policies that indemnify the company in response to events that cause contamination, including PFAS in most cases, which include General Public Liability Policy (which provides coverage for ‘sudden and accidental’ incidents) and (Contractor’s Pollution Liability Policy: provides coverage for ‘gradual’ contamination incidents).
A Group-wide Contamination Management Procedure has been integrated into The Downer Standard and sets out processes when acquiring or divesting a business or entering or exiting a lease. A Group Contamination Risk Register and supporting information is provided to Downer’s Finance team to ensure that financial provisions are accounted for to cover any make good or site remediation obligations.
Downer has internal subject matter experts who support the business throughout the identification and management of contaminated land on leased and owned sites. Downer also relies on external consultants for specialist advice, when necessary. In the situation where our works are to occur on land that has been identified as potentially contaminated, or actually contaminated, we follow the requirements of relevant regulatory authority conditions and best practice management of contaminated sites and disposal of contaminated waste. Downer also manages the potential risks associated with Potential Acid Sulphate Soils (PASS) and Acid Sulphate Soils (ASS).
Downer identifies and documents activities that may cause land, vegetation or disturbance or water contamination at a project or site. These activities require a plan to be developed and incorporated into the site or project management plans. The purpose of the plan is to document the measures and critical controls designed to mitigate soil erosion and minimise the discharge of sediment, nutrients and other pollutants to land and other waterways during works, following the best practice management of sediment, nutrients and other contaminants to waterways in accordance with management plans, approvals and legislative requirements.
Downer defines heritage as all the things that make up a country’s identity including spirit and ingenuity, historic buildings, and unique, living landscapes. Heritage, including cultural heritage, is a legacy from the past, a living, integral part of life today, and the stories and places that can be passed to future generations. Land disturbance from construction and infrastructure projects can disturb or damage heritage or archaeological sites, potentially resulting in loss of tradition, culture, cultural or spiritual identity. This can negatively impact Māori, Indigenous people, and local communities if it is not managed appropriately.
One of our top four environmental Critical Risks is ‘Unauthorised clearance of protected areas’, which relates to preventing unlawful heritage damage. We have a detailed Group-wide Heritage Management process in place, which requires all practicable measures to be taken to limit the impact of our operations on heritage sites. This includes the immediate notification and response procedures to limit potential impacts in case of an unexpected discovery of heritage sites, Indigenous artefacts or remains.
When working in a high-risk area, a preliminary investigation must be undertaken. This includes collaborating with the landowner, the local Aboriginal or Iwi (Māori tribe) authority, the affected community and the relevant regulatory authority, as well as searching publicly available information to determine if a heritage site can be impacted. Before starting any work, heritage requirements are determined and included within the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The EMP may require approval from the regulatory (Aboriginal/Iwi) authorities prior to the actual or potential disturbance of a heritage site. In accordance with the EMP, effective controls are implemented to prevent any unauthorised damage to heritage from occurring. These controls are subject to regular inspection and monitoring for their effectiveness throughout the duration of the works.
Downer takes all practicable measures to limit the impact of our operations on heritage sites located on, near, or downstream of the work site. Land disturbance from construction and infrastructure projects can disturb or damage heritage or archaeological sites, potentially resulting in loss of tradition, culture, cultural or spiritual identity. This can negatively impact Māori, Indigenous people, and local communities if it is not managed appropriately. Before starting any work, heritage requirements must be determined and included within relevant management plans and communicated to employees. When planning a high impact activity (for example, ground disturbance, compaction, vibration, disturbance to trees) a preliminary investigation for heritage values must be conducted. If the preliminary investigation shows the potential presence of heritage, a more comprehensive study by suitably qualified persons is undertaken prior to any works commencing. The outcome of the comprehensive heritage study will form the basis for any actions to protect the heritage sites.
Water and biodiversity are intrinsically linked. Water is essential to life, with dependencies on clean freshwater to drink, to sustain ecosystems, communities, fisheries, and agriculture. Downer recognises that freshwater is a finite and valuable resource. It also recognises that drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services are vital for human health, the environment and sustainable development. Improving water protection is a Broader Outcome sought by the New Zealand Government.
Water availability is a continuing issue in areas in which Downer operates, due to the dry and variable climates, extreme weather conditions and potential future impacts of climate change and population growth in both countries. According to the World Resource Institute, Australia has medium-high baseline water stress. There are small parts of high and extreme stress in southwest Western Australia, Northern Territory, central Queensland, and southern Australia – areas where Downer has limited presence. In comparison, Aotearoa New Zealand, has a lower baseline of water stress.
Water-related impacts are often localised with impacts on a catchment potentially affecting the quality of life in an area, including social and economic consequences for local communities and Indigenous peoples. Understanding our organisation's water use allows Downer to assess the impacts it has on water resources that benefit the ecosystem, other water users including community and customers, and Downer itself. Most water usage and discharges across the organisation relate to those with public utilities providers, including operation of wastewater treatment plants, which treat various forms of wastewater to provide recycled water for non-potable uses, such as for irrigation and agricultural activities.
Downer delivers complete water lifecycle solutions for levels of government and industrial water users. Downer’s expertise includes water treatment, wastewater treatment, water and wastewater network construction and rehabilitation, desalination and biosolids treatment.
Supporting customer investments in water infrastructure (drinking water, sewage, wastewater and stormwater) is an area where Downer positively impacts sustainable development through our Utilities business. We currently assist Logan City Council, Melbourne Water, Sydney Water, Greater Western Water, Tasman District Council and Horowhenua District Council on various projects to construct, maintain and operate critical water assets. In contrast, the amount of water withdrawn and consumed by Downer (for example, as part of infrastructure/construction projects, utilities projects, facilities management) and the quality of its discharges, can pollute or impact the functioning of ecosystems by damaging surrounding plants, animals and waterways. Where possible, Downer projects aim to implement initiatives that limit potable use through rainwater harvesting, recycling and reuse. For example, the Brendale asphalt plant in Queensland uses rainwater harvesting and sludge decanter technology to retain water in the system. The recently completed Warrnambool Line Upgrade, Waurn Ponds stabling and the Waurn Ponds Station upgrade projects in Victoria also implemented sustainable practices to replace potable water use with non-potable water and reduce overall water consumption.
While Downer provides end-to-end water management solutions to its customers, we are also acutely aware of the need to manage our own water usage and the associated impacts this has on the environment and surrounding communities. Downer collates water data on a consolidated level allowing us to understand, at a high level, where our largest impacts lie and to develop an estimate for disclosures.