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Comparing legislative mechanisms for SEA screening and decision-making: Austrian and Australian experiences

Stoeglehner, G., Morrison-Saunders, A. and Early, G. (2010) Comparing legislative mechanisms for SEA screening and decision-making: Austrian and Australian experiences. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 12 (04). pp. 399-423.

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Austrian and Australian approaches to strategic environmental assessment (SEA) are compared with particular emphasis upon the legal basis for the initial phase of agreement/screening and the final stage of SEA decision-making and implementation. In Austrian SEA, screening is compulsory and the outcome leads only to recommendations, meaning that the SEA results have to be considered, but are not binding for the approval decision. In Australia engagement in SEA is largely voluntary but the process results in legally binding conditions of approval that can be applied to relevant actions arising from an assessed policy, plan or programme; the incentive for proponents to participate voluntarily is that subsequent project level activities may be exempt from further assessment processes. Compulsory SEA in Australia also provides a legally certain outcome, a factor of benefit to proponents. Examples of SEAs are provided to demonstrate the operation of the respective stages in the two countries. In Austria compulsory screening results in a lot of energy being spent avoiding triggering a full SEA. Although Australian proponents have been somewhat cautious in volunteering for SEA of their activities, there are signs that this is changing. We argue that the regulatory framework characteristics are a key determinant of the behaviour of proponents and the competent authority in practice and subsequently of SEA potential and outcomes. Consideration of the construct of the regulatory framework for SEA screening and decision-making provides a useful point of reflection for practitioners attempting to understand the effectiveness of SEA processes in a given jurisdiction.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: © Imperial College Press
Copyright: 2010 Imperial College Press
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