Environment assessment and approval process

A person must not take an action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on any of the matters of environmental significance without approval from the Australian Government Minister for the Environment (the Minister).

An action is a project, a development, an undertaking, an activity or a series of activities, or an alteration of any of these things.

Decide if a proposed action needs to be referred

  • Is the proposed action likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance?
  • Is the proposed action likely to have a significant impact on the environment in general (for actions by Commonwealth agencies or actions on Commonwealth land) or the environment on Commonwealth land (for actions outside Commonwealth land)?


Approval is not required from the Minister.


Person proposing to take the action makes a referral to the Minister. Refer your proposed action.


Pre-referral meeting

A pre-referral meeting is optional and can be undertaken at any time prior to submitting a referral. You may wish to seek a pre-referral meeting if you:

  • do not fully understand the assessment and approval process required under national environment law (including the possible expense to you under cost recovery arrangements)
  • want to discuss the potential impacts your proposal may have on Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES).

Preparing early and being able to discuss key aspects of your proposal with Departmental assessment officers will help ensure that the referral process and any assessment and approval stages are efficient and potentially reduce cost recovery charges.

Please view the following documents if you would like to organise a pre-referral meeting with the Department:

  1. Summary information to assist with a pre-referral meeting – Guidance for proponents and consultants - this guide covers summary information to assist proponents or consultants prepare for a pre-referral meeting.
  2. Information on proposed action (template) – this table to be completed by proponents or consultants, provides information on your project including issues and questions you would like discussed at the pre-referral meeting.
  3. Pre-referral meeting agenda template - this suggested agenda template can be modified by proponents or consultants to include additional key areas you would like to discuss during the pre-referral meeting.

The completed table containing information on the proposed action and the modified agenda should be emailed or sent back to the Department (contact details are available in the pre-referral meeting guide as highlighted above). The Department will then organise a suitable meeting date and time and inform you of the final arrangements.

Further information