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What is an Environment Effects Statement?

The Environment Effects Act 1978 provides for assessment of proposed projects (works) that are capable of having a significant effect on the environment. The Act does this by enabling the Minister administering the Environment Effects Act to decide that an Environment
Effects Statement (EES) should be prepared.

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

  • there is a likelihood of regionally or state significant adverse effects on the environment
  • there is a need for integrated assessment of potential environmental effects (including economic and social effects) of a project and relevant alternatives, and
  • normal statutory processes would not provide a sufficiently comprehensive, integrated and transparent assessment.

What is the 'environment'?

It includes the physical, biological, heritage, cultural, social, health, safety and economic aspects of human surroundings, including the wider ecological and physical systems within which humans live.

A final assessment of the effects of a proposal requiring an EES is provided to relevant decision makers by the Minister to enable them to make decisions about a proposal in the knowledge of its environmental effects and the Minister’s advice about whether the proposal provides an acceptable outcome.

The EES process provides for the analysis of potential effects on environmental assets and the means of avoiding, minimising and managing adverse effects. It also includes public involvement and the opportunity for an integrated response to a proposal.

Relevant decision makers may include:

  • Ministers or statutory bodies responsible for public works
  • Municipal councils
  • the Environment Protection Authority
  • Ministers or agencies administering relevant approvals legislation.

What do these Ministerial guidelines do?

These Ministerial guidelines are made under section 10 of the Environment Effects Act. These guidelines supplement the requirements of the Environment Effects Act by providing detail about the administration of the EES process. They apply to public and private projects.

These guidelines set out the process for a proponent or decision maker to refer projects to the Minister for a decision about the need for an EES.

They also set out the process for:

  • scoping and preparing an EES
  • public review of an EES
  • considering public submissions
  • requiring a supplementary statement
  • making the final assessment
  • coordinating other statutory processes.

It is expected that these guidelines will be used by:

  • proponents of projects in considering the need to refer their proposal, as well as to guide the preparation of an EES
  • the public when considering an EES and participating in a public review
  • the Minister when deciding on the need for an EES, in setting the scope of an EES and in making the final assessment of a proposal.

From time to time the Minister may make guidelines on particular aspects and procedures of the assessment process, including consultation processes and setting out procedures and requirements for different kinds of works.

What objectives and principles underpin the EES process?

The general objective of the assessment process is:

To provide for the transparent, integrated and timely assessment of the environmental effects of projects capable of having a significant effect on the environment.

Specific objectives are:

  • to provide for the transparent assessment of potential environmental effects of proposed projects, in the context of applicable legislation and policy, including principles and objectives of ecologically sustainable development
  • to provide timely and integrated assessments of proposed projects to inform relevant decisions, in the context of coordinated statutory processes
  • to ensure proponents are accountable for investigating potential environmental and related effects of proposed projects, as well as for implementing effective environmental management measures
  • to provide public access to information regarding potential environmental effects as well as fair opportunities for participation in assessment processes by stakeholders and the public
  • to provide a basis for monitoring and evaluating the effects of works to inform environmental management of the works and improve environmental knowledge.

These guidelines incorporate the following specific principles of best practice:

  • a systems approach to identifying, assessing and managing potential environmental effects to ensure that relevant effects and responses are considered
  • a risk-based approach to ensure that required assessment, including the extent of investigations, is proportionate to the risk of adverse effects
  • an integrated perspective of the relationship between and significance of different effects to inform decision-making
  • the need to assess the consistency of proposed works with principles and objectives of ecologically sustainable development.

    What is ecologically sustainable development

    1. Ecologically sustainable development is development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends.
    2. The objectives of ecologically sustainable development are:
      1. to enhance individual and community well-being and welfare by following a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations;
      2. to provide for equity within and between generations;
      3. to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems.
    3. The following are to be considered as guiding principles of ecologically sustainable development:
      1. that decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations;
      2. if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation;
      3. the need to consider the global dimension of environmental impacts of actions and policies;
      4. the need to develop a strong, growing and diversified economy which can enhance the capacity for environment protection;
      5. the need to maintain and enhance international competitiveness in an environmentally sound manner;
      6. the need to adopt cost effective and flexible policy instruments such as improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms;
      7. the need to facilitate community involvement in decisions and actions on issues that affect the community.

    Section 4 from the Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Act 2003

    Page last updated: 09/06/23