Through the Strategic Assessment Prospectus, the Department is seeking expressions of interest from state and territory governments and other key stakeholders about where strategic assessments should occur in the years ahead, and how they should be prioritised. If you are interested and would like to find out more, go to:
A guide to undertaking strategic assessments is now available to assist prospective parties wanting to undertake strategic assessments.
A policy that sets out the department's approach to project referrals where a relevant strategic assessment is underway or completed is now available.
What are strategic assessments?
Strategic assessments are landscape scale assessments and unlike project-by-project assessments, which look at individual actions (such as construction and operation of a pipeline or wind farm), they can consider a much broader set of actions. For example, a large urban growth area that will be developed over many years, or a fire management policy across a broad landscape.
Examples of potential strategic assessments could include:
- regional-scale development plans and policies
- large-scale housing development and associated infrastructure
- fire, vegetation/resource or pest management policies, plans or programs
- infrastructure plans and policies
- industry sector policies
Strategic assessments underway
Strategic assessments (including Terms of Reference) under section 146 of the EPBC Act:
- Hamersley Iron Ore Pty Ltd (Rio Tinto) iron ore mining in the Pilbara (Western Australia)
- BHP Billiton mining iron ore in the Pilbara region (Western Australia)
- Gungahlin (ACT)
- Great Barrier Reef (Queensland)
- Perth and Peel region (Western Australia)
- Browse Basin LNG Precinct (Western Australia)
- Melbourne's urban growth boundary (Victoria)
- Molonglo Valley Plan (ACT)
- Heathcote Ridge, West Menai (New South Wales)
- Western Sydney growth centres (New South Wales)
- Fire management policy (South Australia)
- Midlands Water Scheme (Tasmania)
- Mount Peter Master Planned Area (Queensland)
Why undertake a strategic assessment?
Entering into a strategic assessment offers the potential to deal with cumulative impacts on Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) and to look for both conservation and planning outcomes on a much larger scale than can be achieved through project-by-project assessments. The process is designed to be flexible and provide the opportunity to reach a negotiated outcome for the benefit of both parties.
Advantages of doing a strategic assessment include:
- clear 'goal posts' or requirements for protection of MNES are set up-front, at the planning stage
- greater certainty to local communities and developers over future development
- reduced administrative burden for strategic assessment partners and government through:
- a substantial reduction in the number of environmental assessments required for an area
- the avoidance of potentially duplicative and separate environmental assessments by different types of government (such as Australian, state, territory or local governments)
- capacity to achieve better environmental outcomes and address cumulative impacts at the landscape level
- coordinated establishment and management of offsets
- flexible timeframes to better meet planning processes.
Who can enter into an agreement to conduct a strategic assessment?
A strategic assessment is a collaborative assessment process between the Australian Government and an appropriate proponent. Proponents can include:
- federal government departments/agencies
- state and territory governments/agencies
- local governments/authorities
- urban development industry
- Aboriginal Land Councils
- mining and resource companies.
When is it appropriate to conduct a strategic assessment?
A strategic assessment may be the most appropriate form of assessment for:
- high growth areas with a large number of projects requiring assessment by the Australian Government Environment Minister
- projects involving multiple stakeholders or complex, large-scale actions or classes of actions.
There may be other opportunities where a strategic assessment is appropriate. For example, where:
- projects are characterised by multiple values
- a proactive and consistent approach to natural resource management across jurisdictions is considered effective
- there is scope for developing regional capability
- environmental protection is best integrated with higher level planning.
The EPBC Act (sections 147 to 154) also includes particular provisions for the strategic assessment of Commonwealth managed fisheries.
What are the key features of a strategic assessment?
Guided by a set of Terms of Reference, a strategic assessment can take into account:
- how the policy, plan or program gives effect to relevant plans, policies or programs and their inherent environmental protection objectives and/or actions
- how, if appropriate, policies or programs can be modified/updated to achieve their objectives in the area being assessed
- matters of national environmental significance, biodiversity conservation, and ecologically sustainable development
- how uncertainty is addressed and environmental risk managed
- adaptive implementation and environmental monitoring.
What is the process for undertaking a strategic assessment?
A summary of a proposed strategic assessment can be used as a basis for initial discussions with the federal environment department to determine whether a strategic assessment is the best approach for a draft or existing policy, plan or program (that is, before a formal request for a strategic assessment is made).
- Summary of proposed strategic assessments form - excludes Commonwealth managed fisheries.
Frequently asked questions
If you are considering a strategic assessment, contact Strategic Approvals East (Qld, NSW, Vic, Tas) or Strategic Approvals West (WA, SA & territories) in the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities on (02) 6274 1111 early in your planning and design phase.