We’re committed to positively contributing to biodiversity in the local environment wherever possible and supporting and encouraging others where we can meaningfully do so. We recognise biodiversity’s intrinsic value and that healthy and diverse ecosystems and the wellbeing of society are interdependent.
The property sector can both positively and negatively impact biodiversity directly or indirectly through the value chain. GPT recognises the direct tension in terms of land use - that land occupied by commercial buildings replaces natural ecosystems and reduces available habitat.
GPT’s development activities typically occur within existing urban and brownfield (land previously used for commercial or industrial) sites. The design, construction and maintenance of our assets can directly impact on biodiversity through selection and use of materials and the protection and creation of natural environments within these assets.
Our commitments and approach to managing biodiversity primarily respond to the direct and local impacts of GPT’s operations. Other policies reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, waste to landfill and cut demand for potable water use. These interconnected policies relate to the larger scale indirect impacts on biodiversity.
Approach to new developments
GPT has demonstrated strong biodiversity practices for new developments and biodiversity targets were a key element of sustainability briefs issued for major projects such as Rouse Hill Town Centre, Charlestown Square and Highpoint Shopping Centre.
These biodiversity targets were above and beyond regulatory requirements with targets monitored as part of the project delivery process and ongoing operation.
Through each of these projects GPT is taking the opportunity to leave a legacy of restoring part of the local environment utilising native planting, providing both fauna habitat and enhancing stormwater flow-offs.
A number of initiatives are underway to help make a positive contribution to biodiversity at GPT’s sites. These include:
- GPT’s biodiversity measurement tool
- supplier requirements addressing biodiversity.
Biodiversity Measurement Tool
Unlike carbon and water, there’s no widely used or accepted standard for measuring the value of biodiversity. To overcome this challenge, GPT developed a practical biodiversity measure that establishes a baseline for on-site biodiversity, also allowing for tracking the performance at sites.
Our process has been shared with the Green Building Council of Australia and it has formed a basis for the biodiversity component of the Green Star Performance Tool.
As biodiversity can be directly and indirectly impacted through our operations and those of our suppliers, biodiversity criteria are explicitly included in GPT’s supplier pre-qualification and selection process for relevant services. For example, landscaping service selection criteria considers expertise and experience relating to:
- chemical management and selection to minimise environmental impact in use, manufacture and disposal
- native and local species selection and management in order to provide a variety of different structures (shrub and ground cover, mid-storey and over-storey) and a range of fast, medium and slow growing species
- irrigation and selection of drought tolerant and water efficient plants which are suitable for the local climate, geology and soil type
- fauna habitat, including design of landscapes to be consistent with adjacent lands and other wildlife and waterway corridors
- multi-functionality, and selection of plants with more than one function e.g. shading, food producing (nectar, fruit or seeds) and habitat for vulnerable local fauna such as bats, butterflies and birds.
Raising biodiversity awareness
Biodiversity is a poorly understood subject in the property industry. However reviews have revealed that GPT employees are keenly interested in our potential impacts on biodiversity.
GPT regularly conducts biodiversity awareness training for all of its operations managers as well as contractors such as cleaners and waste companies.
The majority of GPT’s assets are located in ‘brownfield’, highly urbanised areas that have been previously developed so have limited biodiversity impact or potential. However, GPT has developed sites and implemented innovative practices such as the creation of an impressive green space in Sydney’s Darling Park now enjoyed by city workers.
Rouse Hill Town Centre
The Rouse Hill Town Centre site pre-development was a golf course with little biodiversity value, giving GPT the opportunity to restore this value through various biodiversity controls.
Biodiversity targets consistent with those for nearby Caddies Creek were integrated into the Town Centre’s landscaping and where possible were designed to minimise artificial watering. As a result, 40% of the site area was protected as open space and 20% was revegetated to the local natural standard.
A saline soil management strategy was prepared and enacted as part of the soils plan in each of the site Environmental Management Plans (EMPs). These EMPs covered environmental issues including (but not limited to) soil erosion, dust, stormwater, waste, recycling, energy conservation through construction, vehicle movement and noise.
GPT’s voluntary target required 30% of the site’s biodiversity values to be reinstated through adopting an 80% endemic – plants specific to the geographical area - planting target. This target was formally monitored through the project delivery process by GPT’s development and sustainability management teams.
- use of bio-swales and ponds covering 400m2 for toxics removal from stormwater prior to entering Caddies Creek
- gross pollutant traps to filter stormwater
- planting of more than 130,000 trees and plants, with greater than 80% being indigenous
- limiting the size of the rainwater collection tank to maintain the environmental flows within Caddies Creek
- a ‘Secret Garden’ providing insulation, stormwater management and an extension to green space
- working with the existing site topography and vegetation to minimise the project’s impact
- communicating messages on stormwater grates to educate visitors and staff on the importance of considering what we put down the drain for the benefit of the flora and fauna in the area
- using timbers which come from sustainably managed forests rather than old growth forests that disrupt the natural ecosystems.
Highpoint Shopping Centre
Located on an old quarry site in the Melbourne suburb of Maribyrnong, Highpoint Shopping Centre undertook a development significantly expanding the net lettable area. This asset’s development team set a strong environmental target for construction and operations upon completion.
Specific targets were set to minimise impact on biodiversity for:
- materials used
- stormwater management incorporating Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD).
Further to the construction impacts, the significant tract of land surrounding Highpoint provided opportunity to improve the biodiversity of the green spaces. Attributes of the green spaces included:
- Native and endemic species used for the majority of the new landscaping planted
- Water Sensitive Urban Design incorporating rain gardens and bio swales were installed in a space-constrained, built up environment, using native and endemic species. The WSUD controls the stormwater runoff from the site as well as cleans and treats the runoff before it returns to the local environment and waterways. The stormwater runoff from Highpoint is part of the catchment area for the Maribyrnong River so it is important that stormwater is effectively managed and treated.