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What matters does the Minister consider?

The Minister, when deciding if assessment is required in response to a referral, will consider the extent to which the project is capable of significant environmental effect in terms of:

  • the potential for significant effects on the environment, either from the nature of the change (expected magnitude, extent, and duration) or the environment’s capacity to withstand that change (location, rarity, physical/ecological/social/cultural connections/etc.)
  • the range and complexity of potential effects and associated uncertainty of available predictions
  • the adequacy of existing standards and/or statutory assessment processes to address potentially significant effects
  • the potential efficacy of avoidance and mitigation measures that may be implemented
  • the availability of project alternatives that may warrant investigation to assess opportunities to avoid or minimise adverse environmental effects
  • the benefits of an integrated assessment that would not otherwise be achieved under existing statutory assessment processes; and
  • the level of public interest in a proposed project.

The Minister would typically require a proponent to prepare an EES when:

  • there is a likelihood of significant adverse effects on the environment
  • there is a need for integrated or systems approach to assessment of potential environmental effects of a project (and alternatives); and/or
  • existing statutory processes would not provide a sufficiently comprehensive, integrated and transparent assessment of those potential effects.

Where an EES is not required, the Minister might require an environment report or impose specific conditions. Non-EES assessment processes may be appropriate for projects where focused assessment is required on discrete issues with potential for significant environmental effect. Alternatively, they may apply when the scale of potential effects on multiple environmental values is limited.

What response might the Minister make to a referral?

The Minister will normally provide a decision on a referral within 20 business days of receiving a complete referral with adequate supporting information. The Minister’s decision and reasons will be published on the department’s website.

Under the Act, the Minister can make one of three statutory decisions on a referral:

1. an EES is required

2. an EES is not required if conditions specified by the Minister are met; or

3. an EES is not required.

In addition, the Minister may give a decision-maker other advice or assistance to enable a decision to be made.

The Minister can set conditions to be met in lieu of an EES that require assessment via an environment report (rather than an EES). Like an EES, an environment report process has the benefit of being accredited under the EPBC Act bilateral agreement to assess projects that also require approval under the Commonwealth EPBC Act, removing duplication.

The Minister will notify the proponent and any other decision-makers that would need to approve the project of the Minister’s decision in response to the referral. When the Minister notifies a proponent or decision-maker that an EES needs to be prepared, the works must not proceed and decision-makers are unable to proceed with decisions, until after the EES has been prepared and the Minister’s assessment has been considered.

What does it mean if an EES is required?

When deciding that an EES is required, the Minister will specify the procedures and requirements for the EES. EES procedures and requirements typically include:

  • matters that should be subject to in-depth investigation as part of the EES
  • scoping procedures that are to apply
  • a requirement for a study program and schedule
  • a requirement for the department to convene an inter-agency technical reference group (TRG)
  • quality assurance procedures to be adopted, including potential for expert peer review of particular matters
  • a requirement for an EES consultation plan to be prepared and implemented by the proponent
  • requirements for advertising and exhibiting scoping requirements, the EES, as well as other information relating to the assessment process; and
  • details of any inquiry, if known at the time.

The Minister can also specify matters that do not require investigation as part of the EES, because they will be addressed through another assessment or approvals process and are not related to the EES’ assessment of potential effects of the project.

What does it mean if an environment report is required?

The Minister will issue conditions setting the requirements for the environment report. Environment report conditions typically include (as
required):

  • the key issues and/or environmental effects to be examined
  • the need to undertake specific investigations/ surveys
  • the need to prepare particular management plans to accompany the environment report
  • the need to assess specific alternatives
  • the need to consult with particular parties
  • quality assurance procedures to be adopted, including the need for specified peer review; and
  • requirements for advertising and exhibiting the environment report and/or other information relating to the assessment process.

What does it mean if other conditions are required?

The Minister can apply other specific conditions to a decision that an EES is not required. Conditions are likely to apply when neither an EES nor an environment report are considered appropriate or necessary, but there remains potential for significant environmental effects that need to be addressed. Conditions might relate to:

  • constraining the form, scale and location of development, with specific impact mitigation measures
  • specific investigations or consultation to be carried out; and
  • specific environmental management requirements.

What does it mean if no assessment is required?

If neither an EES, environment report nor other conditions are set by the Minister, then no assessment of the project is required under the Act.
All other relevant statutory consents, approvals and requirements under other Victorian and Commonwealth legislation will still need to be addressed as appropriate.

Page last updated: 01/12/23