The North East Link Project is delivering one of the most extensive community engagement programs for a Victorian infrastructure project to date.

Community engagement for North East Link started in 2017, during the initial strategic planning stages – much earlier than is typical for projects of this kind.

You can read more about community engagement to select a project corridor and prepare a business case here.

Once we had a preferred corridor, the project was assessed through an Environment Effects Statement (EES) process.

An EES is our State's most robust and transparent impact assessment process and is designed to ensure that major projects are designed, constructed and operated to minimise adverse environmental and community impacts.

The EES process is administered by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) on behalf of Victoria’s Minister for Planning under the Environment Effects Act 1978.

The EES process tests a project’s ability to meet relevant laws, regulatory requirements and standards. It gives decision-makers (such as Ministers, EPA Victoria and other statutory authorities) the information they need to determine whether approvals should be granted and, if so, what conditions should apply.

The EES for North East Link was prepared in consultation with the community and stakeholders and included:

  • A reference project used for impact assessments
  • Technical studies across 18 topics including air, noise, social, business, traffic, cultural heritage, groundwater, vibration and ecology and draft performance requirements to avoid, minimise or manage adverse effects
  • An Urban Design Strategy which sets the vision and quality expectations for the final, detailed project design

It took more than one year to prepare the EES and it was informed by more than 2,000 pieces of community feedback.

This page outlines key engagement activities to prepare the EES and exhibit it for public comment.

You can read more about the EES for North East Link and view a copy here.

Preparing the EES

Community workshops

To help begin preparing the EES we held small group workshops in February and March 2018 on the three topics people told us they were most interested in.

Walking and cycling – we asked what people think is important to consider when planning walking and cycling tracks for all kinds of users.

Urban design – we asked people how they travel around their local area, use community spaces like parks and shops and what they like about the look and feel of their neighbourhood.

Your environment – what asked people to think about the environment they live in, including traffic, noise, air quality, landscape, flora and fauna, what they value, what concerns they have and what could be improved.

After the workshops, a snapshot of the ideas generated by participants were posted on our website so people who couldn’t make it in person could comment.

You can read more about the workshops, including what we heard, here.

Community groups

We set up two Community Liaison Groups to represent the community and work with us on issues and opportunities.

We also set up two Community Technical Discussion Groups for people with a special interest in walking and cycling or technical elements of the project design.

EES updates

While preparing the EES we released two updates for community feedback in April 2018 and September 2018.

The updates gave people information on how the reference project and urban design strategy were being developed, what we were learning from our technical studies and impact assessments so far as well as opportunities to raise issues and concerns, give feedback or contribute ideas for improvements.

People were invited to view project maps and artist impressions, learn more about the impact assessments, talk to specialists and provide feedback in person and online.

At each update we asked people to let us know what issues and impacts they were most concerned about and how the project could improve where they live and how they move about by car, bike and on foot.

What we heard helped shape changes to the reference project, develop an Urban Design Strategy that recognises and responds to the values of local areas and communities, prepare more than 10,000 pages of impact assessments and around 100 draft requirements the project must during design, construction and operation.

You can read more about how community engagement helped prepare the EES here.

Exhibiting the EES for public submissions

The North East Link EES, including a draft Planning Scheme Amendment and Works Approval application, were exhibited for public submissions for 40 business days from 10 April – 7 June 2019.

More than 700 people attended community information sessions throughout the exhibition period to talk to specialists and more than 870 submissions were made.

The Minister for Planning appointed an independent Inquiry and Advisory Committee to review the EES and public submissions, chair a public hearing and make a report of recommendations to help inform the Minister’s assessment of the project. You can read the report here.

The Minister for Planning released his assessment of the EES in December 2019 and approved the Planning Scheme Amendment in January 2020. You can read a copy of the Minister’s assessment here and key approval documents here.

The final requirements the project must meet that were determined through the EES process are here.

The Minister for Planning approved an updated Urban Design Strategy in March 2020. You can read more about the strategy and view a copy here.

Next steps

Detailed designs for the project are being prepared by teams of some of the best and biggest builders in Australia and from around the world. They’ll be working to refine and improve the reference design, to get the best possible outcomes for the community.

Once the design is released in late 2020/early 2021 we’ll keep talking to the community, businesses and other stakeholders as the project progresses to get the best outcomes possible.