Clarity in environmental assessment and approval processes - Essential for risk management

Complex, costly, and confusing.  That's what most organisations feel about planning and assessment processes. And they'd be right. The statutory regime for state and federal assessment and approval is complex and a lack of clarity on key risks, including of merits and judicial review can make for confusion.  

I addressed the Professional Environmental Women's Association (PEWA) this week on the importance of getting clarity and some of my tips for minimising project risk.  Click on the image below to download a copy of my presentation.


Getting a development project off the ground and smoothly progressed is a major risk for many organisations. Two critical reasons that projects suffer delays, or aren’t delivered, are a failure to understand the proper planning, development and environmental impact assessment process that should apply and inadequate consultation. “Fast-tracking”; lack of transparency in the legal process; and the rapid assessment of impacts, far from speeding up a project, often result in more agitation (from community, neighbours, and regulators), delay and cost.

Irrespective of the project size, whether your organisation is developing a small building, or a new infrastructure network, understanding the legal process for planning and environmental assessment, and having meaningful consultation on project impacts is critical to eeffectively  managing risk. At a time when communities, individuals and non-governmental organisations are more sophisticated then ever, more aware of their rights and more open to legal avenues of redress, effective project development in 2017 necessitates open and clear project processes underpinned by legal advice.


  • Before starting a development project (or responding to one), ensure that you understand the specific legal process for assessment and approval that will apply. Be clear on the time line, the decision-maker(s), the stages of assessment, and the points in the process that may be open to legal challenge.

  • Ensure that specific legal advice is sought on project risks, as it is not just statutory processes (e.g. merits appeals) that can result in legal action.

  • Identify both the stakeholders likely to be affected and the project impacts. Make consultation your priority. If procurement arrangements allow, provide for a consultation process to shape a better outcome through design change. The best ideas can come from working with, not against, stakeholders.

  • Go to the right experts at the start and use their expertise on the project. Weak experts, or poor consideration of issues may undermine the project in the long run.