An evaluation of proponent environmental data under the EPBC Act

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Box, Paul ORCID ID icon; Hansen, Birgita; Bradsworth, Nick; Kostanski, Laura




This report presents an analysis of environmental data generated and potentially lodged with government, as part of the environmental impact assessment, approval and monitoring processes under the EPBC Act. A review of the nature and volume of environmental data generated was undertaken through: a desktop review of documents lodged with DoEE for 20 selected referrals under the EPBC Act together with two detailed case studies (in NSW and WA); a workshop with Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) officers to explore perspectives on environmental data; and an analysis of processes, stakeholders and institutional arrangements that shape data generation under bilateral assessment arrangements in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. The 20 cases reviewed comprised 522 lodged documents of which only 25% ( 125 documents comprising circa 10,000 pages) had any references to data (e.g. Tables or maps). From the references to data, the team estimated the existence of 416 data sets, with nearly half the (inferred) datasets generated at referral submission stage. Approximately 50% of inferred datasets related to fauna and 40% to flora. The two detailed case studies, provided a richer picture of the type of data and the conditions under which it was generated. Contracts, and procurement arrangements for environmental surveys, are an important enabler and/or barrier to sharing data with government. Environmental data generated by proponents (or in many cases contracted environmental consultants), may be limited reuse value to them and data storage and management actually represents an increasing cost. However, this data is typically not shared with government, unless this is regulated (through for example conditions set in environmental survey licensing) and enforced by government. In some cases, dis-incentives for proponents to lodge data with government exist, as depositors may be required to pay for access to data lodged in government systems. From the analysis of EPBC referral, assessment and monitoring in four states, it is evident that the processes are complex, with multiple agencies typically involved in (and leading) different aspects of environmental assessment depending on the nature of development activity and its impacts. The complexity of processes and institutional arrangements means that typically no single government officer has comprehensive understanding of the entire process, with effective interactions between organization and process steps being reliant on relationships between individuals. The flow of data into government systems is highly variable across states. Based on the research undertaken in this project, several recommendations are made for short and longer term actions. In the shorter term it is recommended that the DoEE requires proponents to properly cite data used in reports. Several longer-term recommendations to improve the lodgement of data with government focus on regulation, standards and data rights in environmental survey procurement processes that could be tackled as part of review and refinement of bilateral assessments in conjunction with state agencies.



Environmental Impact Assessment; Environmental Monitoring; Information Systems Organisation ; Interorganisational Information Systems and Web Services

CSIRO EPBC Proponent Data - Final Report- Box et al 2018.pdf (pdf) (2.11MB)

EP185018_add.pdf (pdf) (2.07MB)

This report has been placed on the CSIRO repository and may be made available to persons outside of CSIRO for non commercial purposes, in its entirety and without deletion of disclaimers and copyright information.


Technical Report (Author)


Box, Paul; Hansen, Birgita; Bradsworth, Nick; Kostanski, Laura. An evaluation of proponent environmental data under the EPBC Act. Sydney: CSIRO; 2018. csiro:EP185018.

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