The Department of Defence (Defence) seeks approval from the Committee to proceed with Joint Project 157 (JP157) Replacement Aviation Refuelling Vehicles Infrastructure. The proposed works will provide new and upgraded infrastructure at 15 sites to accommodate replacement aviation refuelling vehicles, including new vehicle shelters, bunding, hardstand and roads, and fuel treatment facilities.
The estimated cost of the project is $40.4 million (excluding GST) with future sustainment costs estimated at $0.5 million per annum. These sustainment costs include maintenance and cleaning of the new facilities, and utilities expenses.
The project was referred to the Committee on 7 December 2017.
Conduct of the inquiry
Following referral the inquiry was publicised on the Committee’s website and via media release.
The Committee received two submissions and one confidential submission. A list of submissions can be found at Appendix A.
On 2 March 2018 Defence conducted a site inspection by presentation. The Committee also conducted a public and in-camera hearing on this date. A transcript of the public hearing is available on the Committee’s website.
Need for the works
Defence is undertaking JP157 Replacement Aviation Refuelling Vehicles, which will provide the Australian Defence Force with a fleet of 100 vehicles to replace ‘an aged and failing, under-capacity aviation refuelling fleet’.
The total value of JP157 is over $400 million, with the new refuelling fleet designed to provide ‘effective and efficient’ refuelling for both current and approved future fixed wing aircraft and helicopter fleets.
The existing fleet of 141 vehicles located at military air bases within Australia, and at Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Base Butterworth in Malaysia, is being replaced with commercial-off-the-shelf aviation fuel vehicles of three kinds: high capacity semitankers, medium capacity rigid tankers and elevating hydrant vehicles.
Defence explained the difference between the two fleets:
The current fleets, the older militarised vehicles, are built to withstand the extremes of weather. Newer commercial vehicles are not. Hence we are requesting shelters to protect those vehicles from the weather. That’s really the major difference between the two vehicles.
Defence identified a number of requirements for the new vehicles, including: shelters, upgraded fuel spill containment and fuel treatment systems, and additional road and hardstand facilities for vehicle circulation. According to Defence:
Aviation refuelling vehicles need to be parked and sheltered within a bunded secure environment that complies with fuel spill, fuel treatment and security requirements. Vehicle shelters are necessary to protect the vehicles from the elements, reduce environmental degradation and maintenance. There is a lack of capacity in existing shelters as well as a lack of mandatory safety showers and other Building Code and Work Health and Safety (WHS) compliance requirements at most sites. … Vehicle circulation and access roads are deficient at many sites.
Defence told the Committee that 43 of the 100 vehicles have already been delivered to bases to fulfil the pressing need for the refuelling capability provided by the new fleet. These vehicles are being housed in existing facilities or are currently without shelter.
Defence explained to the Committee:
The need to have the refuelling capability was such that we did need to move forward to get the vehicles now to start being able to produce that capability, always in the knowledge that the shelters would come along behind.
In its submission, Defence clarified that adequate housing would be required to achieve the expected life-span of the fleet:
This facilities project will garage the replacement vehicles to provide protection from the weather and elements and to and increase serviceability as well as usable life of the vehicles.
The Committee is satisfied that need for the works exists.
Scope of the works
The works impact 14 bases in Australia and RMAF Base Butterworth. While the refuelling fleet is being replaced at 17 military air bases, two of the bases (RAAF Base Scherger and Army Aviation Centre Oakey) do not require any works.
Infrastructure works proposed for the other 15 sites includes:
Bunding Works. Repairs and extension of damaged and/or undersized bunding and provision of new compliant bunding.
Fuel Treatment System Works. Increase of treatment system capacity or replacement of unsuitable treatment system type.
New Vehicle Shelters. Vehicle shelters are necessary to sustain the aviation refuelling fleet by protecting the vehicles from the elements, reducing environmental degradation and maintenance.
Hardstand and Access Roads. Hardstand and access roads are required to be Austroad dimension compliant to allow parking and associated circulation space to support movements.
Security Works. Security works are required to provide appropriate levels of physical security and illumination of parking areas.
Contamination Works. Contamination works are inclusive of disposal, storage and/or treatment of contaminated materials resultant from excavation works including soil and water contaminated with hydrocarbons and of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Table 4.1 on the next page provides a list of the proposed works by location.
The most significant works will be undertaken in New South Wales at RAAF Base Williamtown, RAAF Base Richmond and 6th Army Aviation Holsworthy Barracks, as well as in Queensland at RAAF Base Townsville, and in Western Australia at HMAS Stirling.
The Committee was interested in how the life-span of the infrastructure compares to the life-span of the vehicles for which it is to be built. Defence clarified that the structures and building fabric of the vehicle shelters have an expected design life of 50 years, while the vehicles themselves have a service life of only 15 years.
Defence further explained that the project team ‘fully anticipate’ that future replacement vehicles will continue to use the same shelters, as this is built into the design.
The Committee finds that the proposed scope of works is suitable for the works to meet its purpose.
Source: Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 4
During the course of the inquiry, the following issues of local impact were addressed: risks to cultural heritage, risks related to site contamination, and opportunities for local employment.
Defence identified a risk of encountering cultural heritage artefacts at RAAF Base Edinburgh. This risk is being addressed through a requirement that the construction contractor engage an on-site cultural heritage monitor at RAAF Base Edinburgh during construction.
In its submission, Defence stated that a report was commissioned which found that it was ‘unlikely that the project could result in a significant impact’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).
However, there are contaminants at a number of the sites, including soil and water contaminated with hydrocarbons and of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Defence has included provisions in the project budget for the removal of such contaminants at every site except Robertson and Butterworth, and confirmed:
Any contaminated material found during the construction phase shall be removed and disposed of in accordance with Defence Environmental Policy and applicable State Legislation.
Defence stated that the project will ‘generate short-term employment opportunities and opportunities for suppliers predominantly in the building, construction and labour markets at 14 sites throughout Australia’. Further that the project will employ an average of 15 to 20 construction personnel at each location during the construction periods.
Defence committed to providing the Committee with information about its engagement with local industry at the completion of the project, and added:
Whilst we are using a head contractor methodology across all sites, we fully anticipate, given the spread of the sites—in some instances being in a remote location—the head contractor will be subcontracting out to local providers.
Cost of the works
The estimated cost of the project is $40.4 million (excluding GST) with future sustainment costs estimated at $0.5 million per annum.
The Committee received a confidential supplementary submission detailing the project costs and held an in-camera hearing with Defence on the project costs.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings provided to it have been adequately assessed by the proponent entity.
The broader JP157 project, worth more than $400 million, will provide the Australian Defence Force with fast refuelling capability to service its current fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, as well as the capability to service future aircraft.
The Committee recognises that suitable garaging and facilities are not only required in order to fully operate the new fleet of aviation refuelling vehicles, but also to maximise the life-span of the investment.
The Committee is also aware of the need to provide adequate fuel spill containment and fuel treatment, and as such supports Defence in ensuring all facilities meet current standards.
Noting that 43 of the 100 vehicles have already been delivered and are in operation, the Committee appreciates the need for the new and upgraded facilities.
Having regard to its role and the responsibilities contained in the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the Committee is of the view that this project signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a project which is fit for purpose, having regard to the established need.
The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives resolve, pursuant to Section 18(7) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, that it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: Joint Project 157 Replacement Aviation Refuelling Vehicles Infrastructure Project.
Proponent agencies must notify the Committee of any change to the project scope, time, cost, function or design. The Committee also requires that a post-implementation report be provided within three months of project completion. A report template can be found on the Committee’s website.