Making an impact

Published 12 Aug 2016 by Lachlan Wilkinson FEIANZ CEnvP, SIS-IA Chair

The EIANZ Special Interest Section on Impact Assessment (SIS-IA) promotes good practice in all forms of impact assessment. The SIS-IA has been active for several years and has developed memorandums of understanding with the New Zealand Association for Impact Assessment and International Association for Impact Assessment, advised the CEnvP Board on criteria for certification of Impact Assessment Specialists, developed guidance statements on good practice in the scoping and conduct of impact assessments and conducted a number of workshops at EIANZ conferences. The SIS-IA will be coordinating several impact assessment sessions at this year’s EIANZ Conference in Brisbane. Hope to see you there.

Current initiatives focus on the following.

Good practice in scoping

After developing its guidance paper on scoping in impact assessment, the SIS-IA has turned its attention to using this paper to advocate for improved scoping practices across Australia and New Zealand. This will not be a quick process and, to a large extent, this will depend on opportunities arising through government reviews of existing impact assessment regimes. We will also be using our networks to promote the paper and encourage discussion about how scoping practices could be improved. We see this as a crucial step in impact assessment. Poor scoping considerably increases the likelihood that the subsequent environmental assessment will lack focus and inadequately address key issues. Please let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can further promote improved scoping practices.

Guidance for proponents

While EIANZ and the CEnvP Board have been actively lobbying to change this situation, there is generally no requirement in Australia and New Zealand for an impact assessment to be prepared by a professional who is suitably experienced and qualified. This has resulted in sub-standard documents being produced by practitioners operating outside their area of expertise. If these practitioners were members of EIANZ, they would be breaching our Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. However, the problem also lies with those who are engaging consultants for this work. Recognising that some clients have limited understanding of the competencies needed to prepare and manage an impact assessment, the SIS-IA is developing guidance on selecting a suitably experienced and qualified practitioner. This will be aimed at those who have little experience with the environment profession but it is expected it will be of more general interest.

Use of impact assessment research

EIANZ is committed to continuing professional development and it is important that impact assessment professionals are aware of current developments in the field. Anecdotally, however, it appears there is insufficient interaction between impact assessment researchers and practitioners, to the detriment of both groups. As a first step to confirming the extent to which problems do exist, the SIS-IA is examining how practitioners currently use journals, conferences and other means to access research and the barriers that prevent them using them more regularly.  We are doing this through a 5-10 minute survey available here. If you are an impact assessment practitioner, please make your contribution.

Improving communication

The mandate of the SIS-IA includes improving communication and discussion between impact assessment practitioners. One means for doing this is our LinkedIn group. If you are an impact assessment practitioner and have not already joined our site, please join our 87 current members. If you have joined, let’s hear from you. Let’s get the discussion going!

Further information on the SIS-IA, including a list of members of our Management Committee, is available here