Impact Assessment

Impact assessment for threatened species

If a planned development or activity is likely to have any impact on a threatened species listed under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (FM Act), a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts must be made (the 'Assessment of Significance' or '7 part test'). If the impacts are likely to be significant, or if critical habitat is affected, a species impact statement must be prepared. In these cases, the Director-General of the Department of Primary Industries must agree to the development approval and the Minister for Primary Industries may also need to be consulted.

The Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) sets out the development and impact assessment system in NSW. The environmental assessment for major infrastructure and state significant development is determined by the Director-General of the Department of Planning in consultation with other agencies, including the Department of Primary Industries. Please read the information on major project assessment on the Department of Planning website.

Part 4 of the EP&A Act covers development that requires consent, such as development approvals from local government. Part 5 deals with activities that require some form of approval other than development consent, such as a permit or licence from a government agency (the 'determining authority').

In either case, the consent and/or determining authority must consider if a planned development or activity is likely to have any impact on threatened species, populations or ecological communities, or their habitats. A preliminary assessment of the potential impacts on threatened species, populations or ecological communities listed under the FM Act, must be made (Division 12, Part 7A of the FM Act sets out the factors which must be considered in making this decision, known as the 'Assessment of Significance' or '7 part test'). The Department of Primary Industries has developed a guide to assist in undertaking the assessment.

If the impacts are likely to be significant, or if critical habitat is affected, a species impact statement must be prepared. In these cases, the Director-General of the Department of Primary Industries must agree to the development approval and the Minister for Primary Industries may also need to be consulted.

If there is likely to be a significant impact, the consent or determining authority must seek the concurrence of the Director-General of the Department of Primary Industries (or in some cases consult with the Minister for Primary Industries), and the proponent must prepare a detailed Species Impact Statement (SIS). An SIS is mandatory if the development or activity will take place on declared critical habitat.

The minimum information which must be included in an SIS is defined in Part 7A of the FM Act. Before preparing the SIS, the proponent (the person proposing to carry out the activity) also has to ask the Director-General of the Department of Primary Industries for any Director's Requirements, which may specify any additional issues or information to be covered. In some cases, for example where the impacts will be negligible or trivial, the Director can modify or limit the information to be included in the SIS or even dispense with the requirement for an SIS.

Even when an activity does not require consent or approval (and therefore assessment) under the EP&A Act, a licence may still be required under the FM Act if the activity is likely to harm an aquatic threatened species, population or ecological community or its critical habitat.

The EP&A Act also requires government planners to take into account threatened species before they make environmental plans and policies at a statewide, regional and local level.