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The influence of EIA on environmental management in Western Australia

Morrison-Saunders, Angus Neil (1997) The influence of EIA on environmental management in Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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An important measure of the effectiveness of environmental impact assessment (EIA) is the extent to which it achieves its goals for environmental protection and management. To determine this requires an examination of environmental outcomes for projects that have undergone EIA. The utility of the pre-decision stages of EIA in influencing environmental management outcomes has been well documented by others. It is argued that EIA can also play a useful role in providing for ongoing adaptive environmental management. A theoretical model of the EIA/environmental management relationship is proposed which identifies three stages based on the principal approval decision point; pre-decision, post-decision and transitional; in which the influence of EIA may be realised. Consideration was also given to how environmental management activities came about based on the influence of rational processes, external pressures and internal reform. A methodology for EIA auditing to explore this model is presented. The audit uses a computerised database whose design reflects four distinct EIA components: impact prediction, occurrence of impacts, environmental management activities and environmental monitoring. The database structure enables predecision, post-decision and transitional stage EIA influences on project outcomes to be differentiated. The audit methodology is applied to six case studies in Western Australia. During project assessment, strong emphasis was placed on the need for ongoing monitoring and management programmes. The implementation of these programmes was found to be central to successful achievement of project and environmental performance objectives. The results indicate that EIA practitioners have focussed environmental management actions on issues of greatest significance. Some predicted impacts were avoided by management activities. Most impacts were identified in impact predictions although predictive accuracy had little bearing on environmental management response. Many impacts were responded to by EIA managers irrespective of whether they were predicted accurately or even considered in predictions. Most significant impacts had ongoing monitoring. Most environmental management activities originated from the pre-decision stage of EIA, although the transitional and post-decision stages were also important. There was considerable evidence of the influence of external pressures on environmental management outcomes as well as rational processes and to a lesser extent internal reforms. Overall, the case studies demonstrate that a strong relationship exists between EIA and ongoing environmental management performance in Western Australia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Supervisor(s): Bailey, John
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