1.1 Purpose of this Document
This is the assessment of environmental effects (Assessment) under the Environment Effects Act 1978 (EE Act) for the Western Highway Project Section 2 Beaufort to Ararat (WHP2). It represents the final step in the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process under the EE Act by providing advice to decision-makers on the likely environmental effects of the proposal, their acceptability and how they should be addressed in relevant statutory decisions. The Assessment is informed by the report of the recent Inquiry together with the EES and public submissions. This Assessment will inform the decisions required under Victorian law for the proposal to proceed, in particular approval decisions under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (P&E Act). It will also inform the approval decision under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
1.2 Project Description
VicRoads proposes to duplicate the Western Highway between Beaufort (Martins Lane) and Ararat (Warrayatkin Road) as part of a larger project to duplicate the highway between Ballarat and Stawell. It is proposed to upgrade Section 2 Beaufort to Ararat to freeway standard in the long term. The project does not involve bypasses of Beaufort or Ararat. The project would mainly involve construction of a second carriageway adjacent and parallel to the existing highway on adjacent land. At Box’s Cutting and Buangor, new dual carriageways are proposed, and the existing highway would revert to a local road. When traffic conditions warrant and funding becomes available, it is proposed to upgrade Section 2 to a rural freeway standard. This would require construction of service roads for local access and grade separated interchanges. The EES addresses the effects of both the interim upgrade to a divided rural highway and the ultimate upgrade to a freeway. The project covers a route length of approximately 38 km through the Shire of Pyrenees and the Rural City of Ararat. The alignment spans six significant waterways and would require a new crossing of the Ballarat – Ararat railway line. It would affect land that is predominantly used for a variety of agricultural uses including plantations, grazing and cropping. A detailed description of the project is provided in Chapter 6 of the EES.
1.3 Structure of this Assessment Section
2 of this Assessment outlines both the EES process and statutory approvals required for the proposed development. The core part of this Assessment is Section 3, which first provides an outline of the process undertaken by VicRoads for analysing a range of potentially suitable alignment options, resulting in a short list of two options which would meet the project objectives. Section 3 then assesses the potential environmental effects of the two short-listed options evaluated in detail in the EES. Section 3 concludes with an assessment of the proposal and its overall outcomes in the context of applicable legislation, statutory policy as well as the relevant objectives and principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD). Table 3 provides specific responses to the recommendations of the Inquiry.