Doctor of Philosophy
Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security
This thesis examines the shortcomings and challenges for Australian marine environmental impact assessment (EIA) legal frameworks to consider and assess cumulative and synergistic impacts, as distinct impact types, from large-scale marine use and development. The thesis aims to identify how the legal frameworks and requirements can be improved to enable better consideration and assessment of these impact types. Emphasis is given to the legal frameworks for marine environmental assessment: EIA and strategic environmental assessment (SEA). In particular, the thesis examines the different characteristics of cumulative and synergistic impacts, and how they are typically defined to be the same type of impact when considered or assessed as part of environmental assessment. Concentrating on this, if environmental assessment frameworks use definitions that do not distinguish the characteristics of these impact types, then there is a risk that detrimental synergistic impacts may be neglected. Thus, it is argued in this thesis that these impact types should be assessed and considered separately.
The thesis emphasises that consideration and assessment of cumulative and synergistic impacts should be required in EIA and SEA to enable iterative planning and decisionmaking frameworks. Improving EIA legal requirements for cumulative and synergistic impact consideration and assessment to better inform decision-making is a main focus. Theoretical and practical mechanisms to improve planning and decision-making are also identified to examine how the improvement of knowledge about cumulative and synergistic impacts can assist with achieving goals of marine environmental protection, and reduce uncertainty in environmental assessment and decision-making processes. The precautionary principle and the use of post-approval monitoring (PAM) are two key mechanisms that can assist with the iterative feedback of knowledge about cumulative and synergistic impacts, and the integration of EIA with SEA.
Analysis of Australian marine EIA legal frameworks to consider and assess cumulative and synergistic impacts is provided through two case studies. The first case study analyses legislation applicable to the Otways Marine Area and seeks to ascertain the extent of, and approach to, legal requirements to assess these impact types within four Australian jurisdictions (Commonwealth, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania). The second case study analyses the consistency of approach to cumulative and synergistic impact consideration and assessment within the EIA, decision-making processes and PAM associated with Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay Channel Deepening Project. These two case studies demonstrate that increased attention needs to be given to the consideration and assessment of cumulative and synergistic impacts in EIA. A third case study was undertaken to give insight into the shortcomings and benefits of approaches to cumulative and synergistic assessment when there are legal requirements to consider these impact types in marine environmental assessment legislation. To achieve this, the final case study examined the EIA, PAM programmes, and legal frameworks for existing and approved offshore wind farms in Denmark.
The thesis concludes with recommendations for the reform of Australian marine EIA legal frameworks. The recommendations focus on improving legislative requirements for the consideration and assessment of cumulative and synergistic impacts as distinct impact types. This includes through the use of express provisions, distinct definitions and other aiding mechanisms, such as the precautionary principle, and PAM.
Grage, Anna, Marine Environmental Impact Assessment: Considering cumulative and synergistic impacts within the Australian legal framework, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, University of Wollongong, 2018. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/603
Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.