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Principles for effective impact assessment: Examples from Western Australia

Morrison-Saunders, A. (2011) Principles for effective impact assessment: Examples from Western Australia. In: IAIA11 Impact Assessment and Responsible Development for Infrastructure, Business and Industry, 31st Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment, 28 May - 4 June, Puebla, Mexico

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What makes an impact assessment process effective with respect to underlying legal and other principles? Prompted by a local review of administrative processes for environmental impact assessment (EIA), I identify 10 key aspects of IA legislation and practice in Western Australia along with corresponding principles. The EIA system in Western Australia (WA) has established an international reputation as a strong model for successful practice, and draws on more than 30 years of operation. Recent government reviews pose some threat and uncertainty regarding the future. In this context I reflected on the key ingredients of the legal and operating framework and realised that each conformed with important principles for good practice. Examples include a significance test at the screening step based on an environment-centred approach; public involvement that upholds natural justice expectations, transparency and accountability; the application of rational-scientific principles in the pursuit of adaptive environmental management; as well as upholding the polluter pays principle by ensuring that the proponent is responsible for all major EIA tasks and outcomes which in turn are legally binding and enforced. I outline each of the 10 principles using extracts from the legal arrangements for EIA in WA practice to illustrate each. I argue that the simultaneous attainment of all principles is necessary to deliver an effective impact assessment practice. The WA arrangements may have relevance to practice elsewhere in the world. I conclude with some observations on the implications of recent EIA review for the situation in Western Australia.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
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