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Environmental plan


In broad terms, operation of the Narrabri Observatory aims to responsibly manage enivornmental issues and to enhance the observatory environment through
  • reducing consumption and increasing recycling of consumables;
  • remediation of past poor environmental practices;
  • managing our land to improve habitat for native spieces where this is consistent with our operational requirements and responsibilities to our leaseholder.
Sources used in developing this plan include input from the PKK environmental survey in 2001, the NPWS natural heritage and converation values assessment carried out on the property in October 2003 and literature from CSIRO Corporate and Sustainable Ecosystems and National Parks literature on the region.

Animal and plant pests

The property is home to a number of animal and plant pest species. Management of these follows the pest control policy for the north-west plains developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This prioritises pest management using a cost-benefit analysis. The policy is:
  • Feral pigs: Professional trappers will be used to trap pigs on an annual basis, or as needed.
  • Feral cats: No policy.
  • Red foxes: No policy. They could be controlled by baiting. As foxes range between different properties, any plan would need to be in collaboration with neighbouring property holders.
  • Rabbits and hares: Rabbits are widespread on the property. Cost-benefit analysis suggests that they are not worthy of action.
  • Mother-of-millions: There is an infestation of this weed mainly west of House 1 and House 2, and to a lesser extend west of the Control Building, near the old landfill, and north-west of the Airglow Flat. This will be controlled by herbicide spraying. See the MSDS for the herbicide 2,4-d.
  • Prickly pear: These occur in modest numbers only. The are kept in check by the cactoblastus moths.
  • Galvanised burr: This is widespread but low level distribution of this weed in distrurbed areas of the property. No action.
  • Aloe vera: Known large infestations of this have been eliminated, except within the yard of House 1. Regrowth of these will be eliminated as they become apparent. Minor infestations will be removed in due course.
  • Willows and blue heliotrope: There are small pockets of willows and blue heliotrope. Currently no policy.
  • Blackberries: There are minor infestations of this at Mopra. Currently no policy. These could be eliminated by spraying.
See the Queensland Natural Resources site, which contains useful information on control measures for pests.

Promotion of habitat

  • Local native plants will be used on property for landscaping and gardening purposes.
  • Firewood collecting will be restricted to small quantitites by staff for personal use or for staff bonfires. In these cases, collecting will be restricted to the sector between the entry road and the old entry road and in the immediate vicinity of the buildings.
  • We are actively considering a program to revegetate a strip of land along Bundock Creek to provide additional high-value habitat. In a few areas on the West of the property the creek takes on a chain-of-ponds form which is increasingly rare in the district because such ponds are very sensitive to degradation from livestock.
  • NPWS recommends that selected burn-offs are advantageous to reduce fire hazard, pasture improvement, thinning out regrowth cypress, maintaining floral diversity through the emergence of spieces in the seed band that may depend on fire for propagation.

Natural value assessment

In undertaking any development, federal law and CSIRO policy require consideration to be given to avoid any impact on vunerable or endangered spieces. An assessment by NPWS and/or observations from a variety of sources note the following spieces that fall within these requirements:
  • The Black or Tiger Orchid is likely to occur on the property.
  • Glossy black cockatoos (occasional), superb parrots (common), grey-crowned babblers (common) and koalas (very occasionally seen) have been seen on the property.
  • Black-striped wallabies have been seen very close to the property and may well shelter here.
  • Brown treecreepers and painted honeyeaters are potentially in the area of the observatory.
No endangerd ecological communities have been identified on the property to date. See the list of spieces expected or seen in the observatory.

Remediation of areas of environmental degradation

Old landfills

The landfills near Culgoora Lane were closed in 2001, and the water in the landfills was tested for heavy metal content and other pollutants. No pollutants were found. In 2003 the material from the landfills was excavated and allowed to dry. Over 2003-2005 all rubbish from the landfill was removed at a cost of approximately $30000.

The area to the south and west of the workshop contains some material than is now best described as rubbish. There is also some rubbish material both within and around the buildings near NML.

Old heliograph transformer stations

These are being removed by metal recycling companies at their own discretion. In 2002 "West House" was removed.

Old heliograph antennas

Intact antennas will be left undisturbed and given to interested parties. No policy exists for the removal of antennas that have collapsed.

Old heliograph transmission poles

There is a possibility that the poles have been treated with toxic materials to avoid termite damage. Whether this is an issue needs to be accertained.

Major earthwork revegetation

Major earthworks were undertaken during various contruction phases at the property. These include:
  • Levy bank and stream relocation
  • North spur
  • Entry road
  • East-west track
Although vegetation has re-grown on the edges of the entry road and the east-west track, erosion issues remain with the levy bank/stream relocation and the north spur.

We are investigating the potential for a joint project with the Namoi Catchment Management Authority to actively revegetate the stream relocation area to restore its habitat value and prevent further erosion in this area.


It is acknowledged that the Observatory contains asbestos. There are some know areas of bonded asbestos (``old fibro'') and there is a high probability that the site contains bonded asbestos not yet identified (eg concealed in buildings or underground pipes). No friable asbestos is known to exist. No known research activities in regard to asbestos has taken place on site. Bonded asbestos in fibro was a common building material when the Narrabri Observatory was built in the 1960s. This means that asbestos is likely to be associated with the older buildings and in the construction materials used. Bonded asbestos, if left undisturbed, is not hazardous. However it can be hazardous if disturbed or allowed to deteriorate.

Our policy is written to provide the approach on how the site is to deal with this situation. The intention is to take a pro-active approach in dealing with the asbestos issue, but also recognise that in some instances it is more hazardous to remove it rather than to disturb it.

The ATNF Narrabri will

  1. actively identify, search and conduct tests to locate areas containing asbestos on site.
  2. produce a site asbestos itemised location list.
  3. label or otherwise signpost any asbestos sites. Possible asbestos, meaning materials that have a likely probability and have not been tested, are to be labelled/signposted as possible sites.
  4. require that any staff, contractors or site visitors identifying possible asbestos are is to cease work and disturbance of the area immediately and should consult the Engineering group leader, OIC, or Deputy OIC as soon as possible.
  5. ensure contractor inductions reflect this policy and ensure contractors are well aware of their responsibilities in regard to item 4.
  6. ensure work on areas containing labelled asbestos is only conducted after a proper assessment is done. The assessment would include determining the approved safety methods and procedures in dealing with the asbestos.
  7. postpone work on areas labelled as possibly containing asbestos until testing takes place. Otherwise the area must be treated as though it contains asbestos.
  8. ensure all asbestos disposal follows appropriate guidelines and is done in accordance with relevant federal and state legislation and CSIRO policy (eg see NOHSC recommendations).
Asbestos on propery fall into two categories:
  • Heliograph smoko hut: This old hut is constructed with fibro which probably contains bonded asbestos. This in itself is not a dangerous material, but should not be disturbed (to break it will free some asbestos fibres). Currently we have no policy on this hut except that it should not be disturbed without further thought.
  • Old houses: There are several old houses and other buildings on property which may contain old fibro which may containing bonded asbestos. Again bonded asbestos in itself is not dangerous, unless disturbed. As the fibro may be hidden in the structure, there is no practical or infallible method of locating it all or to remove any if discovered.
Note, formerly there was friable asbestos surrounding an old boiler room flue in the Control Building. This was removed in July 2004. Several sources of bonded asbestos have been removed, including Charlies Hut, stormwater pipes behind House 2, heliograph transformer enclosures, and the old storage shed exterior.

Solid waste management plan

No solid or liquid waste is dumped on site. Where possible, solid material is recycled in some fashion. Appropriate bins and storage places have been implemented to enable this recycling. We are currently looking for ways to further enhance our level of recycling.
  • Used oil Used oil is collected in oil drums which are sealed and then stored in the bunded used oil store for removal. The used oil is removed from site by Northern Lubequip.
  • Used Grease
  • Lead Acid Batteries All lead acid batteries not in use are kept in the Battery Shed. Old UPS and genset batteries which have some remaining life are sold to the public for reuse. Used batteries with no resale value are taken to the lead acid battery section at the Narrabri Tip.
  • Scrap Metal
  • Waste paper and cardboard Waste paper and cardboard is baled and kept for collection by Challenge Disability Services.
  • Glass Waste glass is kept in open 220 litre drums next to the incinerator for collection by Challenge Disability Services.
  • Toner cartridges Used toner cartridges are collected for recycling.
  • Kitchen waste Where possible, kitchen waste is either composted or used as animal feed.
  • Obsolete/surplus equipment: This is sold or given to staff.
  • Other Solid Waste All other solid waste is put into skips for removal by Namoi WasteCorp.

Effluent management

House 1, 2, Airglow, Antenna Lab, Control Building, Lodge, Visitors Centre and Mopra use Biocycle systems. These systems are serviced quarterly

House 3 and NML use septic tanks.

Other environmental matters

  • The HCFC solvent Genesolv is used in cleaning of cryogenic components. ATNF carries a license to use this solvent.

Other measures of environmental usage

As per our corporate responsibilities, we track
  • Electricity usage. Electricity usage has been flat at about 2.5 GWHh pa for the last 5 years at Narrabri and Mopra.
    Electricity usage at Narrabri and Mopra
    Year Narrabri (GWh) Mopra (GWh)
    1999 1.986 0.509
    2000 1.888 0.501
    2001 1.931 0.491
    2002 2.003 0.477
    2003 2.291 0.304
    2004 2.322 0.293
    2005 2.339 0.315
    Approximately 72% of electricity usage is consumed by the antennas. In an antenna, 55% of electricity is used by the cryogenics and the air conditioning system, 32% is used by the antenna drives and electronics, and 14% is consumed by UPS losses.
  • Petrol and diesel usage. Approximately 42% of diesel/petrol is used to operate the antenna generators. 39.3 klitres of fuel was used in the 2003-2004 financial year.
  • Kilometres of vehicle travel. Overall vehicle travel is reduced by using a site bus to ferry people to and from Narrabri township.
  • Water usage is not currently measured.

Original: Bob Sault (15-Aug-2003)
Modified: Bob Sault (29-Aug-2005)