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Impact Assessment

Under the Queensland State Planning Act 2016 there are three types of development: prohibited, accepted and assessable. There are two types of assessable development: impact and code assessment. This page provides an overview of assessable development that is environmental impact assessment.

Please note disclaimer at bottom of page.

Additional information

Halifax Bay Photo by DES

Quick facts

Queensland
has the most diverse array of wetlands in Australia. Wetlands deliver many ecosystem services that contribute to our wellbeing—such as water and food supply, filtering of pollutants, regulation of climate and flooding, coastal protection, provision of habitat for biodiversity. They also deliver recreation and tourism opportunities.

 

 

Environmental impact assessments for proposed developments may be triggered at the local, State and Commonwealth government levels for development associated with wetlands. The environmental impact assessment process uses an environmental impact statement (EIS) to identify environmental values that may be impacted, the nature and extent of likely impacts; and measures to be taken in the location, design, construction and operation of the proposed development to avoid and effectively mitigate and manage adverse impacts. The EIS process also establishes conditions of approval.

At the Commonwealth level an EIS may be triggered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EBPC Act) where a proposed activity will or is likely to have a significant impact (direct or indirect) on a matter of national environmental significance (MNES) protected under the EPBC Act.

A bilateral agreement has been established between the Queensland and the Commonwealth Governments to eliminate unnecessary duplication of EIS effort. This agreement gives the State responsibility for managing the environmental impact assessment process for certain activities that impact MNES.

At the State level, an EIS may be triggered under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) in relation to proposed high-impact resource projects (large mines, petroleum and gas, geothermal and greenhouse gas storage); an assessment may also be triggered for projects of State interest including resources, infrastructure, tourism and industrial developments under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act). The assessment process for coordinated projects under SDPWO Act is set by the Office of the Coordinator-General. Under the Marine Parks Act 2004 an EIS may be triggered in certain situations.

An environmental offset may be required as a condition of approval where—following consideration of avoidance and mitigation measures—a prescribed activity is likely to result in a significant residual impact on a prescribed environmental matter(s).

At the local government level certain developments can be impact assessable when prescribed in a planning scheme.
Commonwealth: Matters of national environmental significance (MNES) Environmental Impact Statement

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the Commonwealth Government’s central piece of environmental legislation. It provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important wetlands, flora, fauna, ecological communities, water resources and heritage places—defined in the EPBC Act as Matters of national environmental significance (MNES).

Assessment mechanism and recognition of MNES

Matters of national environmental significance (MNES) listed under the EPBC Act are matters considered to be of national significance for protection. MNES includes Ramsar sites, World Heritage Areas, listed threatened species and ecological communities, and migratory species, including those protected under international agreements. In Queensland there are five sites listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

Under the EPBC Act, actions that have, or are likely to have, a significant impact on MNES, require approval from the Commonwealth Government Minister for the Environment (the Minister). The Minister also decides whether assessment by EIS is required.

The Commonwealth's environmental impact assessment process can be managed by the State under the bilateral agreement, however the Commonwealth Minister is responsible for approving the action and the setting of suitable approval conditions. In relation to Ramsar wetlands for example, any approvals would include conditions to ensure actions do not have a significant impact on the ecological character of the site.

Resources

State: Environmental Impact Statement - Resource activities

The aim of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) is to protect Queensland's environment while allowing for development that improves the total quality of life, now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends. This approach is termed 'ecologically sustainable development'.

The Environmental Protection Regulation 2019 outlines the State’s environmental interests. To protect or give effect to the State’s interests in the environment, proposed resource projects may require environmental impact assessment and approval under the EP Act.

Assessment mechanism and recognition of State interests

High-impact resource projects will require assessment through an EIS process under the EP Act. The Queensland Government has published trigger criteria for mining and petroleum projects that require assessment by EIS under the EP Act.

There are several pathways under the EP Act for the EIS process:

  1. a site specific application is made for an Environmental Authority (EA) for a resource activity, and the Government decides if an EIS is required;
  2. an amendment application is made for an existing EA for a resource activity, and the Government decides if the amendment is major, warranting an EIS;
  3. a voluntary application by the proponent is made to prepare an EIS, and the Government decides that an EIS is appropriate.

Resource activities include mining, petroleum (including coal seam gas), geothermal and greenhouse gas storage activities. The Environmental Protection Regulation 2019 sets out environmental objectives and performance outcomes for a range of values, including wetlands and waters. The EIS must identify and adequately describe the environmental values to be protected and how the proposed project would meet requirements under the Regulation and other legislation and policies.

Resources

State: Coordinated projects

The State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act) facilitates coordinated infrastructure planning and development to support Queensland's economic and social progress. The SDPWO Act outlines the State’s interests in infrastructure planning and development.

To protect or give effect to the State’s interests regarding ecologically sustainable development under the EP Act and the State’s interests for economic and social progress under the SDPWO Act, the Co-ordinator General may require an EIS or impact assessment report (IAR).

Assessment mechanism and recognition of co-ordinated projects

The Coordinator-General may declare a project to be a ‘coordinated project’ requiring an EIS or an (IAR). The Office of the Coordinator-General coordinates and manages the State Government’s evaluation of the proposed project. A range of government departments and local government are responsible for advising on matters relevant to their interests e.g. roads, housing, environment, planning and social services.

A 'coordinated project' usually requires multiple and often complex local, state and national approvals and has significant infrastructure requirements. The SDPWO Act defines the environment as including ecosystems and their constituent parts and all natural and physical resources. Among other things, the EIS must identify and fully describe the environmental values to be protected and how the proposed project meets environmental objectives and performance outcomes described in State legislation and policies.

Resources

  • Additional information on the SDPWO Act.
  • Information on the coordinated project EIS process under the SDPWO Act.
  • Development Assessment Mapping System (DAMS)
  • State: Marine Parks

    The aim of the Marine Parks Act 2004 (MP Act) is to provide for conservation of the marine environment through the declaration and management of marine parks. Zoning plans state the entry and use provisions for each State marine park. The MP Act outlines the State’s interests for marine parks.

    To protect or give effect to the State’s interests, matters relating to the revocation of part of a marine park may require an environmental impact assessment.

    Assessment mechanism and recognition of marine parks

    If a proposed development requires that part of marine park is revoked, a regulation may be made if the Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution requesting the regulation. Assessment of the proposal to revoke may require an EIS, depending on the nature and extent of the proposed revocation.

    In considering an application for permission to enter or use a marine park, the chief executive may request an EIS about the applicant’s proposed use of the marine park. In this case, the EIS process is conducted under the EP Act as if the works were a project under that Act.

    Resources

    State: Nature Conservation
    The object of the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NC Act) is to conserve nature while allowing for the involvement of Indigenous people in the management of protected areas in which they have an interest under Aboriginal tradition or island custom. The object is to be achieved through an integrated and comprehensive conservation strategy for the whole of the State that involves among other things, the dedication/declaration and management of protected areas and the protection of native wildlife and its habitat. The NC Act also restricts some uses from protected areas. The NC Act outlines the State’s interests for protected areas.

    To protect or give effect to the State’s interests, matters relating to proposed activities in part of a national park may require an environmental impact assessment.

    Mechanism and recognition of nature conservation

    If a proposed activity requires an interest (includes a lease, licence, or permit for certain activities) in part of a protected area, the developer can be asked to provide an EIS which is assessed through the EIS assessment process under the EP Act.

    The EIS must consider the proposed use of the part of the protected area, impacts on the protected area and adjoining land and water. Public notification of the proposed activity must be published inviting submissions on the EIS.

    Resources

    Disclaimer

    While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of this product, the Queensland Government and Australian Government make no representations or warranties about accuracy, reliability, completeness or suitability for any particular purpose and disclaim all responsibility and all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages (including indirect or consequential damage) and costs which might be incurred as a consequence of reliance on the product, or as a result of the product being inaccurate or incomplete in any way and for any reason.


    Last updated: 30 May 2019

    This page should be cited as:

    Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) Impact Assessment, WetlandInfo website, accessed 24 September 2020. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/management/legislation-update/impact-assessment/

    Queensland Government
    WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science