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When might a supplementary statement be needed?

The Minister may ask the proponent to provide additional information on specified matters if this is needed to make an assessment of effects. Where the
required information will involve extensive investigations, the Minister may formally call for a supplementary statement to be prepared. The
proponent may be directed to prepare a supplementary statement at any point between the exhibition of the EES and the making of an
assessment. The Minister can specify the procedures to be applied for a supplementary statement and any requirements regarding the scope of the

The Minister will exercise discretion in determining whether the public is invited to provide comments on a supplementary statement. The invitation to provide comments might be limited where a supplementary statement addresses localised issues.

What is the Minister’s assessment?

An assessment of the environmental effects of a project by the Minister is the final step in the EES process. Referred to as the Minister’s assessment,
this step determines whether the likely environmental effects of a project are acceptable. It will provide:

  • findings on the potential significance and acceptability of adverse and beneficial environmental effects of the project
  • recommendations for project modifications or environmental management measures required to address likely adverse effects; and
  • evaluation of the overall significance and acceptability of likely adverse effects of the project, relative to likely benefits of the project, within the context of applicable legislation, policy, strategies and guidelines.

The Minister’s assessment will involve consideration

  • the EES and any supplementary statement
  • public submissions, the proponent’s response to submissions, and supporting information from the proponent or submitters
  • the inquiry report; and
  • the objectives and principles of ecologically sustainable development, as well as applicable legislation, policy, strategies and guidelines.

What can a Minister’s assessment say?

The Minister’s assessment may conclude that:

  • a project (with or without limited modifications) would have acceptable environmental effects, having regard to overall project outcomes; or
  • a project would have unacceptable environmental effects; or
  • a project would need major modifications and/or further investigations in order to establish that acceptable environmental outcomes would be achieved.

In the latter situation, under some circumstances, a further assessment process under the Act may be required. This would be a new and separate process, following a new referral.

A Minister’s assessment will also typically provide advice on project implementation and environmental management measures, including:

  • opportunities for incorporating necessary measures in conditions of particular statutory approvals or in binding agreements
  • coordinating different aspects of the environmental management regime to ensure an integrated approach for achieving acceptable
    environmental outcomes; and
  • recommended approaches to environmental monitoring and management, including further public involvement.

When will a Minister’s assessment be provided?

The Minister’s assessment is normally provided to decision-makers and the proponent within 30 business days of receiving the report of an inquiry.

If an inquiry is not appointed to consider an exhibited EES the Minister’s assessment is normally provided to decision-makers and the proponent within 50 business days from the close of exhibition, or within 25 business days from the date further information is received from the proponent responding to
submissions (whichever is later).

Does a Minister’s assessment bind decision-makers?

Relevant decision-makers are required by the Act to consider the Minister’s assessment. However, its recommendations are not binding on the decisionmaker. To assist in the transparency of the EES process, the Minister will request decision-makers to confirm how the assessment was considered as part of any decision. Where the decision-maker proposes not to adopt part of the assessment, the decision-maker should consult with the Minister prior to making the decision.

Where an assessment is accredited under the EPBC Act, the Minister’s assessment is provided to the Commonwealth Environment Minister to inform their decision under the EPBC Act. The Minister’s assessment does not bind the Commonwealth Environment Minister.

How is the public notified of the Minister’s assessment?

The Minister’s assessment will be placed on the department’s website. This will occur as soon as practicable after the assessment is provided to decision-makers and proponents.

Does the Minister’s assessment require follow-up?

An EES will outline a transparent framework with clear accountabilities for managing and monitoring the environmental effects of a project. The Minister’s assessment will provide advice for decision makers on the appropriateness of the proposed framework including requirements for independent auditing or public reporting. This approach enables relevant recommendations of the Minister’s assessment to be translated by respective decision-makers into legal obligations.

It is possible that several departments and agencies will have responsibility for enforcing approval conditions, potentially including environmental
monitoring, reporting and auditing. The Minister’s assessment may suggest the establishment of a committee comprising representatives of relevant
departments, statutory authorities and possibly stakeholders to provide a forum for communication about the implementation of an assessed project.

What if there are variations to a project?

Variations to a project during its implementation are common and the response will depend on the circumstances, nature and the scale of any change.
Variations in response to the Minister’s assessment may be required to respond to issues that have arisen in the EES process to lessen the impact on the environment. The assessment might also set out further investigations and consultation that should be undertaken before preliminary design plans are endorsed. In some circumstances, revised statutory applications may also be needed. Variations may also be required in response to specific requirements by decision-makers.

Where a proponent varies its project and the variation has the potential for significant new or altered adverse effects on the environment, the
proponent may need to refer the revised proposal to the Minister for a decision as to whether further assessment is required under the Environment
Effects Act. For the removal of doubt, the proponent should consult with the department before proceeding with any variation.

Making the final assessment following an environment report

Following the completion of an environment report and its public review (when required), the Minister may in certain cases issue an assessment of the
project’s effects, which may be needed to inform specific statutory decision-makers. A Minister’s assessment is required when an environment report
is undertaken as an accredited assessment under the EPBC bilateral agreement. The Minister’s assessment provides conclusions on the
acceptability of the likely environmental effects and recommendations for mitigation, similar to a Minister’s assessment following an EES. The Minister’s
assessment will consider:

  • the environment report
  • public submissions received on the report, the proponent’s response to submissions, and supporting information
  • any report of an advisory committee or panel if one was required; and
  • the objectives and principles of ecologically sustainable development, as well as applicable legislation, policy, strategies and guidelines.

When an environment report has been undertaken as an accredited state assessment process for a controlled action under the EPBC Act bilateral
agreement, the Minister’s assessment is to explicitly cover all relevant impacts on matters of national assessment is provided to the Commonwealth
Minister to inform the approval decision under the EPBC Act.

Page last updated: 01/12/23