Project referred to Minister for Planning for decision on the need for an EES. In the referral process, proponents are asked to describe any consultation conducted to date and a forward program if available.
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Consultation is a key aspect of the environment assessment process in Victoria. It helps build understanding around the issues and implications of the project. Consultation allows stakeholders’ knowledge and views to be considered in both project planning and formal decision making.
Consultation during the environment effects statement (EES) process encompasses both:
- informal consultation by the proponent with stakeholders during investigations to assist the development of a sound EES
- formal opportunities for public input into the scoping requirements for an EES and the review of an exhibited EES.
As part of preparation of an EES the proponent is responsible for keeping the public informed and consulting with relevant stakeholders. This responsibility should be planned for and implemented through an EES consultation plan.
A consultation plan may be prepared voluntarily for other major projects subject to an alternative tailored or focused environmental assessment process.
EES consultation plan
An EES consultation plan sets out the measures a proponent will undertake to inform the public and obtain input from stakeholders when preparing an EES. It provides a framework for action and accountability.
The consultation plan should clearly document how the proponent will:
- inform the public about the proposed project and program of EES studies
- seek targeted input from stakeholders during preparation of the EES to:
- identify issues of potential concern
- obtain local knowledge on existing conditions
- understand perceptions of potential effects
- gain feedback on measures that might provide reasonable responses to stakeholder concerns (including potential refinement to the proposal)
- respond to stakeholder input.
The choice of consultation activities or methods, and the timing and extent of their use, should be tailored to the circumstances of the project.
Developing an EES consultation plan
The consultation plan is not intended to follow a highly prescriptive format or approach, or to limit consultation that is undertaken.
Consultation needs will typically evolve, and the plan is able to be modified throughout the EES process to respond to changing stakeholder needs.
The proponent should begin consulting with stakeholders during preliminary studies, prior to the referral of a project for a decision on whether an EES is required. Early consultation will assist in the development of a well-conceived project concept and program for further studies.
The draft consultation plan should be prepared in conjunction with the draft study program to assist in identifying issues that need investigation and framing study methodologies that provide opportunities for targeted stakeholder input where appropriate.
A technical reference group (TRG) will usually be appointed to provide advice when preparing an EES, including the design and implementation of a consultation plan. We will consider the views of the TRG when advising the proponent on refining the consultation plan to a suitable standard.
We will publish the final EES consultation plan on this website when satisfied that the plan will provide for effective consultation throughout the EES process.
The process for developing an EES consultation plan, in relation to the overall EES process, is:
Scoping requirements for EES are set by the minister.
If a decision is made to require an EES, the proponent will be asked to provide a draft EES consultation plan, including a list of key stakeholder issues.
The TRG will provide comment and feedback to the proponent on the adequacy of the draft EES consultation plan. A final EES consultation plan will be posted on this website. The proponent should make copies of the plan available on request.
Proponent prepares the EES.
Implementation of the consultation plan during the preparation phase of the EES process will be monitored by the TRG.
Exhibition of EES and lodgement of submissions.
Minister’s response to the EES and submissions.
What to include in an EES consultation plan
The consultation plan should include:
1. Stakeholder identification
Accurate identification of stakeholders is fundamental to the development of an effective consultation plan. Proponents must understand who they are trying to reach through consultation activities and how these stakeholders are most likely to access and understand the information presented.
Identification of stakeholder groups for consultation should take account of:
- the uses and values of the environment for different stakeholders
- the potential effects of the project on stakeholder interests
- the extent to which stakeholder interests are represented by organised groups.
Who are stakeholders?
Stakeholders include all parties who are either affected by or have an interest in a project.
Examples of stakeholder groups include:
- local residents, landholders and businesses
- regional and seasonal communities
- residents or communities along ancillary infrastructure or transport routes
- local and peak environmental, recreational and industry groups
- indigenous communities and organisations
- local, state and federal government agencies and authorities.
Consultation efforts can focus on individual households, organisations or representatives of particular interests that might be significantly affected by a project, though reasonable effort should also be made to inform and invite input from stakeholders that may be affected to a less significant degree.
2. Stakeholder analysis
Once identified, conduct analysis of stakeholders to better understand the character, interests, and consultation needs of different groups to establish the most appropriate methods for consultation.
Consideration should be given to:
- cultural or other social factors that may affect the participation of groups potentially affected by a project (where appropriate, provide summary information in languages other than English and suitable opportunities for input)
- the ability of stakeholders to access information and willingness to engage in different forms of consultation
- the level of interest in, and potential contribution to, particular EES studies from individuals or groups.
The draft plan should be accompanied by a preliminary list of stakeholder issues, identifying concerns of stakeholder groupings that relate to possible project effects. This list will provide a tangible context for evaluating the adequacy of the draft Plan, having regard to the nature, breadth and strength of issues or concerns.
3. Consultation methods and schedule of activities
There are a range of methods for consultation, from those that require little or no dialogue and provide broad information, through to structured interviews and methods involving active discussion and negotiation.
In most cases, a mix of methods will be needed to effectively engage with the spectrum of stakeholders interested in the EES process, with a balance between consultation from specialist consultants or project managers and opportunities for stakeholders to engage with the actual project proponent.
Moving through the EES process, there is an increasing level of interaction from inform to consult to involve for public participation (adapted from IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum).
Aim: To provide information about the proposal and assist the public to understand implications.
- Fact sheets
- Information hotline
- Newspaper inserts
- Public exhibits or displays
Aim: To seek feedback from stakeholders on aspects of the proposal and any alternatives or options and respond to comments on proposals and alternatives.
- Field trips
- Open house
- Preliminary options studies
- Public briefings
- Surveys and questionnaires
Aim: To discuss the proposal with key stakeholders and work with them to address their concerns.
- Public workshops
- Community Reference group
- Focus groups
- Key stakeholder interviews
- Mediation processes
- Meet the experts/consultants
4. Recording, monitoring and reporting
The consultation plan should outline how inputs from stakeholders will be recorded, considered and/or addressed in the preparation of the EES and supporting technical studies, and how this will be reported to the TRG.
While it is not the specific purpose of a consultation plan to facilitate agreement between the proponent and stakeholders about issues, it is in the interest of the proponent to respond positively to stakeholders’ inputs where they have a sound basis.
A program for evaluating stakeholder involvement should also be included to enable improvements to the plan to be made as the project progresses.
Provide at referral stage
- Information about stakeholder consultation conducted to date
- Draft consultation plan if available.
Provide in EES consultation plan
- Identification of key stakeholders
- Analysis of stakeholders, including a listing of key interests and issues
- Description of consultation methods to be used, including:
- broad activities for the project as a whole
- targeted activities to inform specific technical studies
- Outline of how inputs from stakeholders will be recorded and addressed
- Proposed timing and sequence of consultation activities.
Page last updated: 14/06/23