Strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Urban development, Perth
The Australian Government and Western Australian Government have formally agreed to undertake a comprehensive strategic assessment of the Perth and Peel Regions of Western Australia. The strategic assessment will be undertaken in accordance with section 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Strategic assessments enable a 'big-picture' approach to environment and heritage protection that provides certainty in the long term, by determining the areas to be protected from development and areas where sustainable development can go, the type of development that will be allowed and the conditions under which development may proceed.
Perth and Peel Regions
The strategic assessment will focus on the Perth and Peel regions of Western Australia's Swan Coastal Plain as shown in Figure 1. With the population of the Perth and Peel regions predicted to double in the next 20 to 30 years, the strategic assessment will focus on the impacts of future urban development activities, infrastructure corridors, transportation and basic raw material extraction.
Figure 1. Perth and Peel Regional Sustainability Planning and Strategic Assessment area - Click on map to enlarge image
Why is a strategic assessment being undertaken?
The Australian and Western Australian governments agree that the Perth and Peel regions of the Swan Coastal Plain have significant environmental and heritage values, including matters of national significance (MNES) protected under the EPBC Act. Those matters include:
- wetlands of international importance
- listed threatened species and ecological communities
- migratory species protected under international agreements
- national heritage places, and
- world heritage properties
The strategic assessment will assess how these values and matters can best be protected while accommodating sustainable development and the needs of a growing city.
Terms of Reference
Public comment period
In August 2011, the Western Australian Government sought public comment on the draft Terms of Reference for the strategic assessment of the Perth and Peel regions. The public comment period closed on 7 October 2011.
Final Terms of Reference
In May 2012 the Australian Government environment minister approved the final terms of reference and minor amendments to the strategic assessment agreement. The final terms of reference take into account public comments received and expand the boundary of the strategic assessment to include the whole of the Gnangara, Pinjar and Yanchep Pine Plantations and adjacent conservation land.
What are the next steps?
A draft Plan (describing proposed developments and biodiversity avoidance, mitigation and offset commitments) and draft Impact Assessment Report (describing impacts on biodiversity and matters of national environmental significant from implementation of the Plan) will be developed by the WA Government and exhibited for public comment. At the close of the public comment period, an additional report will be prepared summarising the public comments received and how they are addressed in the final Plan.
When finalised, these documents will be submitted to the Australian Government Environment Minister for endorsement. The Minister may request modifications or endorse the Plan. Once the Plan has been endorsed, the Minister may approve actions or classes of actions to be taken in accordance with the endorsed Plan. This approval is a legal step that allows development and other related activities identified in the Plan to proceed without the need for further approval from the Australian Government under the EPBC Act.
Sustainable Regional Development program
The Australian Government has invested $29.2 million into the Sustainable Regional Development program. This program aims to secure a sustainable future for Australia's high growth areas and is one of the measures under Sustainable Australia – Sustainable Communities: A Population Strategy for Australia.
The focus of this program is to protect matters of national environmental significance in selected high growth regions. In the Perth and Peel regions the Sustainable Regional Development program will provide funding for research projects to support the strategic assessment. This includes research on Carnaby's Cockatoo habitat and sustainable use of basic raw materials in urban development.