Case study 3: Australia's Second Strategic Assessment under the EPBC Act
On 11 April 2011 the minister endorsed the Midlands Water Scheme, a major new irrigation project in Tasmania, which will build new pipelines, infrastructure and dams. The scheme will deliver up to 47 500 megalitres of water each year to approximately 500 farms in the Midlands region.
The scheme is one of several irrigation projects funded by the Australian Government’s $140 million commitment to support efficient irrigation in Tasmania under the Water for the Future initiative. The scheme was the second strategic assessment to be endorsed under the EPBC Act. The strategic assessment was an important consideration in ensuring that the scheme is ecologically sustainable and consistent with the EPBC Act.
The strategic assessment enabled the minister to assess the environmental impacts of the irrigation development across the entire Midlands landscape. Importantly, this enabled the cumulative impacts of the entire irrigation proposal, including those on-farm, to be assessed at the one time. This one-time assessment is unique to the EPBC Act’s strategic assessment provisions.
The strategic assessment establishes a commitment to avoid impacts on all matters of national environmental significance, unless otherwise approved, including impacts on the Lowland Native Grasslands of Tasmania. The strategic assessment also potentially benefits the 500 farmers who may take up the scheme, as it sets out the environmental standards which must be met before the scheme’s construction and uptake by landholders.
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