A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) aims to describe the change in the physical and visual environment that will result from the implementation of a proposal. This could be the installation of a new piece of infrastructure like an above-ground pipeline, a new building, or the implementation of a new land use, for example changing pastoral land to mining land.
LVIAs that are undertaken as part of a formal impact assessment may need to consider one or more of the following:
- Environmental Protection Act 1986: Under this Act, ‘environment’ is defined as “living things, their physical, biological and social surroundings, and interactions between all of these”. When a proposal is assessed under the EP Act, the EPA may consider a proposal’s impacts to visual amenity under its guidance framework for environmental factors based on a number of environmental factors and protection objectives listed in the Statement of Environmental Principles, Factors and Objectives (EPA 2018a). The factors and objectives generally relevant to landscape and visual impacts are:
- Landforms: “To maintain the variety and integrity of significant physical landforms so that environmental values are protected”
- Social Surroundings: “To protect social surroundings from significant harm”.
- Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972: This Act provides for the identification and protection of places and objects of traditional importance to Aboriginal People in Western Australia. Aboriginal Heritage ‘Sites’ are typically divided into one of two overarching categories:
- Mythological Sites: ethnographic sites with values that are not necessarily physical in form, often associated with the Dreamtime (e.g. rivers, waterholes, landforms)
- Archaeological Sites: sites with culturally important physical relics or artefacts (e.g. artefact scatter, middens, rock art).
Although not explicitly stated, any sites with Aboriginal Heritage importance are usually also highly valued in terms of their landscape and/or visual amenity values.
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999: Under Section 528 of the EPBC Act, the term ‘environment’ is defined as:
- Ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities
- Natural and physical resources
- The qualities and characteristics of locations, places and areas
- Heritage values of places
The social, economic and cultural aspects of a thing mentioned in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d).
- Native Title Act 1993: Impacts to Native Title rights and interests from Landscapes and Visual Amenity impacts may stem from:
- Direct loss of mythological sites associated with specific or rare landforms (rock pools, outcrops etc.) and/or
- Loss of a sense of enjoyment or fulfilment when practicing Native Title rights or interests (access restrictions to high value areas, loss of camp sites etc.).
- Non-legislative requirements may also need consideration for a particular location or project including Western Australian Planning Commission’s (WAPC) Statement of Planning Policy No. 2 and other local planning requirements, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ (DBCA) reserve management plans and local government requirements.
One of the key outputs is usually a series of graphics, that summarise the results of the LVIA at a series of view points (Example 2). The LVIA report describes the methods undertaken and will usually describe management objectives, strategies and recommendations on design, implementation and operational controls to meet the objectives.
Several staff at 360 Environmental have detailed knowledge of the LVIA process, and its application in an environmental approval and public consultation process.
Learmonth Pipeline Fabrication Facility, North West Cape
360 Environmental were commissioned by Subsea 7 to undertake a LVIA as required by the EPA as part of their Public Environmental Review for the proposed fabrication facility. The nature of this project had both onshore and offshore components within Exmouth Gulf as it fabricated and launched bundle pipelines. The EPA required an assessment of eight vantage points to capture all phases of the project (construction, operations and decommissioning).
This scope of works primarily required characterisation of the existing landscape, the identification of values places and points, and the assessment of potential visual amenity and landscape impacts the Project could have in relation to existing and potential future impacts. A site assessment was undertaken that characterised the landscape and surveyed the visual amenity values associated with 35 valued places. Based on the findings of the field assessment, a detailed visual impact assessment was undertaken for eight key sites which encapsulate the various visual amenity values of the region. The assessment made use of viewshed and photomontage analysis, using a scaled 3D model of the Project. The assessment found that minimal impacts can be expected from the project outside of the bundle launch phase. During the bundle launch phase, locally significant sites may be significantly impacted. A number of Visual Management Objectives aimed to minimise these impacts were proposed.
Edith Cowan University Small Scale Renewable Energy Project
360 Environmental were commissioned by Edith Cowan University, Joondalup to prepare a development application package for a number of renewable energy systems proposed to be installed at the University’s Engineering Faculty. One of the systems proposed was a 3.5 kilowatt wind turbine. As part of the Development Application, we undertook an LVIA in order to understand and predict the level of impact that the wind turbine may have on visual amenity and landscape values within the City of Joondalup’s town centre.
Our assessment involved the use of photomontages, seen area analysis (viewsheds) as well as descriptions of the landscape character of the site. The LVIA assessment has been accepted by the City of Joondalup and the project is currently awaiting approval.
Rockingham Montessori School, Karnup
360 Environmental were commissioned by the Rockingham Montessori School in 2015 to conduct a limited LVIA to assess potential impacts and explore management options for its proposed Karnup property. The development of the school met with significant opposition from several neighbouring land owners who felt that the development of the school would not (among other reasons) fit in with the rural landscape character of the area.
360 Environmental were able to demonstrate to the State Administrative Tribunal that with the inclusion of several management measures, the schools ‘design and siting did conform to rural planning guidelines (Example 3). Following the finalisation of other limiting factors, the school was subsequently approved and is now awaiting finalisation of conditions.
Central Pilbara Strategic Proposal Landscape & Visual Impact Risk Assessment
Following the completion of two LVIAs for the proposed South Flank and Marillana operations, BHP Billiton Iron Ore commissioned 360 Environmental to conduct the largest detailed LVIA ever completed in WA, covering an area of 76,500 square kilometres. The assessment included field surveys and characterisation of over 100 high value locations as well as the modelling and visualisation of predicted mining activities in the region from the years 2030 to 2100 (Example 4).
Although not formally assessed by the EPA under the Landforms or Amenity factors, the LVIA assessment forms a key part of BHP Billiton Iron Ore’s Strategic Proposal and will influence the way regional impacts to visual amenity and landscape are managed in the next 50 to 100 years.
Example 4: Viewshed and Photomontage Created for the Central Pilbara Strategic LVIA
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