In Victoria, environment assessment of the potential environmental impacts or effects of a proposed development may be required under the Environment Effects Act 1978.
The process under this Act is not an approval process itself, rather it enables statutory decision-makers (Ministers, local government and statutory authorities) to make decisions about whether a project with potentially significant environmental effects should proceed.
If the Minister for Planning decides that an Environment Effects Statement (EES) is required, the project proponent is responsible for preparing the EES and undertaking the necessary investigations.
Read the Environment Effects Act 1978.
Once the EES is completed and released for public comment, the Minister provides an Assessment to the relevant decision-makers. There are also opportunities for community involvement at certain stages of the process.
The Department coordinates the process, implementing the Ministerial Guidelines that set out the processes and requirements under the Environment Effects Act. A summary of how the process works under these guidelines is available on this page, or the full document can be downloaded below:
If an EES is required, the preparation of a Cultural Heritage Management Plan becomes mandatory under the provisions of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.
Information on how cultural heritage legislation interacts with the environment assessment process can be downloaded here: EES Advisory Note: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (PDF, 217.7 KB).
Another possible decision following referral of a project under the Act is for conditions to be set in lieu of an EES. These conditions may provide a practical alternative to an EES or provide additional safeguards or management measures.
If a project requires assessment under both the Environment Effects Act and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the relevant process can be accredited under the new Assessment Bilateral Agreement between the Commonwealth and Victoria. This means that proponents will not have to undertake two separate assessment processes, minimising duplication and saving them time and resources. Visit the Environmental Assessment Bilateral Agreement webpage for more information.
What is an Environment Effects Statement?
An Environment Effects Statement (EES) usually contains:
- A description of the proposed development
- An outline of public and stakeholder consultation undertaken during investigations and the issues raised
- A description of the existing environment that may be affected
- Predictions of significant environmental effects of the proposal and relevant alternatives
- Proposed measures to avoid, minimise or manage adverse environmental effects
A proposed program for monitoring and managing environmental effects during project implementation.
How does the EES process work?
A project is referred by a proponent or decision-maker in accordance with the referral criteria.
The Minister will make one of three decisions, normally within 20 business days of accepting a referral:
- Yes, EES is required
Approval decisions are put on hold until the EES process is completed.
- No, EES is not required
Decision-makers can proceed with their approval process.
- No, EES is not required but conditions must be met
Conditions might relate to the location or dimensions of the project or mitigation measures, or alternately requirements for further studies or consultation.
The matters to be investigated and documented in an EES are set out in the 'scoping requirements' issued by the Minister. These are different for each project and depend on the associated environmental risks.
Draft scoping requirements are prepared following input from the proponent and other agencies. These are released for public comment for at least 15 business days before the final scoping requirements are published.
The proponent must prepare a quality EES, as well as a study program and consultation plan consistent with the scoping requirements.
A Technical Reference Group, with members from government agencies, local government and statutory authorities, is appointed to provide advice to the proponent and the Department during the preparation of the EES.
When the Minister is satisfied that the EES is suitable, it is released for public comment for between 20 and 30 business days. During this time, the public can make written submissions.
The Minister may appoint an inquiry to evaluate the effects of the project, having regard to the EES studies and public submissions. The inquiry may take one of three forms, depending on how complex the issues are:
- A desktop review of written submissions
- A conference of submitters and review of submissions
- A formal hearing, where the proponent and submitters can speak and present expert witnesses.
As the final stage of the EES process, the Minister prepares an Assessment considering all relevant information including the EES documents, public submissions, the proponent's response and the inquiry report. The Minister's Assessment is normally provided within 25 business days of the inquiry report being finalised.
The Assessment includes findings on the environmental effects, and may conclude that the project:
- will have an acceptable level of environmental effects; or
- will not have an acceptable level of environmental effects; or
- would need major modifications and/or further investigations to establish that acceptable outcomes would be achieved.
Decision-makers must consider the Minister's Assessment in deciding whether to approve a project under Victorian law or to authorise public works. While the recommendations in the Assessment are authoritative, they are not usually binding on decision-makers.
When the proponent prepares their EES, they must develop and implement a Consultation Plan to inform individuals and groups who could be affected and provide opportunities for input.
Consultation helps the proponent to identify issues of concern and potential effects, as well as get feedback from stakeholders on project options or potential mitigation measures.
Members of the public can also participate in the EES process by providing written comments on the draft scoping requirements and the final EES. If an inquiry is appointed, there may also be an opportunity to make a verbal submission.