The offshore renewable energy sector is rapidly developing in Australian waters. An area off Gippsland, Victoria, became a Declared Area for Offshore Energy Infrastructure in late 2022, and other regions are under consideration.
Commonwealth, state and territory agencies responsible for licensing and regulating infrastructure projects need access to quality, relevant, environmental data to support decision-making about regulatory processes. This includes the assessment of environmental management plans in the context of Commonwealth, state and territory legislation.
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Authority (NOPSEMA) have identified the need for a rapid assessment of information available for the Gippsland declaration area.
A particular focus is a subset of species listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These species are potentially at greatest risk to offshore renewable energy activities through interactions during construction, operations and decommissioning. Data and information are also needed to support the identification and development of baseline conditions and long-term reference datasets, methods and techniques for monitoring, mitigation and management of interactions and impacts.
Much of the information required, however, is either embedded in journal articles or reports, or in datasets yet to be fully analysed. Further, some public datasets may not be in widely accessible formats.
This hub project will identify existing information and knowledge that can be used for assessment and regulation in the Gippsland declaration area. It will also identify actions to maximise the utility of this information in research planning.
The project will evaluate the ‘readiness’ of information and use an expert elicitation process to identify information, data and data products outside the public domain and identifiable through a broad-scale inventory process. Relevant streams of research will be brought together through established hub networks, primarily facilitated through a workshop involving DCCEEW and NOPSEMA representatives to:
- identify datasets and information sources relevant to these priority species;
- identify the accessibility of these datasets and information sources;
- evaluate the utility of information identified for assessments; and
- identify steps needed to improve the accessibility and utility of datasets.
A report for Commonwealth, state and territory managers will outline the workshop findings and make recommendations for improving the utility of existing knowledge and addressing key knowledge gaps. This will guide further research planning by the hub and via other funding sources. A bibliography of research papers, reports and datasets, including their location and key contact points will help to identify knowledge gaps on the priority subset of species that can be used to guide monitoring programs and directed research across the declaration area.
A template will be provided for gathering relevant information for other declaration areas and identify where effort needs to be directed to improve data and information best practices that meet Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability (FAIR) standards for the sector.
An overview of knowledge held by Traditional Owners of relevance to the Gippsland declaration area will seek to identify where future engagement is needed to recognise and acknowledge Indigenous knowledge in assessment and regulation processes.
Information on the offshore energy sector is available on the DCCEEW website.
Priority species identified for the Gippsland declaration area
Birds, shorebirds and seabirds
- Amsterdam Albatross, Diomedea amsterdamensis
- Australian Gould’s Petrel, Pterodroma leucoptera leucoptera
- Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea
- Far Eastern Curlew, Numenius madagascariensis
- Grey-headed Albatross, Thalassarche chrysostoma
- Mongolian Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus mongolus
- New Siberian Islands Red Knot, Calidris canutus piersmai
- North-eastern Siberian Red Knot, Calidris canutus rogersi
- Northern Royal Albatross, Diomedea sanfordi
- Orange-bellied Parrot, Neophema chrysogaster
- Swift Parrot, Lathamus discolor
- Shy Albatross, Thalassarche cauta
- Southern Giant-Petrel, Macronectes giganteus
- Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, Aquila audax fleayi
- Yakutian Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica menzbieri
- Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus sp.
- Southern Right Whale, Eubalaena australis
- Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
This project will provide guidance to DCCEEW, NOPSEMA and hub partners on where resources could be directed in 2024 and beyond to improve the accessibility and utility of datasets and information sources not currently available to assessors and regulators in useable formats. This guidance will contribute to a national inventory on potential impacts of offshore renewable energy infrastructure being developed by hub Project 3.3.
The up-to-date overview of the information and knowledge relevant to the Gippsland declaration area will support decision-making relating to planning, and regulation of the offshore renewable energy sector in the region. It will also generate a shared understanding about who needs the knowledge and information, when it is needed and how stakeholders might collaborate across institutions and research initiatives to meet immediate and medium-term information and data needs.
Gippsland ORE area, northeastern Bass Strait
Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water