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The Department’s social impact assessment guideline for State significant mining, petroleum production, and extractive industry development (State significant resource projects) establishes a clear, consistent and rigorous framework for identifying, predicting, evaluating and developing responses to the social impacts of those projects, as part of the overall environmental impact assessment.


Social impact assessment is not a one-size-fits-all process. It needs to be tailored to suit the nature of the project and the scale of its impacts.

The Department has also developed a Scoping Tool to help applicants to determine the scope of their SIA. Further information about scoping a social impact assessment can be found in Section 3 of the guideline.


View the guideline

The guideline will apply to all State significant resource projects that receive Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) after the guideline’s publication, along with certain modifications to existing project consents.

 

The Department has also developed transitional arrangements for State significant resource projects currently within the major projects system, in response to feedback received during the exhibition of the draft guideline.


Transitional arrangements

The guideline will apply to State significant mining, petroleum production and extractive industry development proposals that request Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) after the guideline’s publication date. It will also apply to new modification applications if the associated social impacts are expected to be new or different in scale or intensity to what was previously approved.


If a proposal received SEARs before the guideline’s publication date and is expected to submit a development application in six months or more, the Department will update the requirements so the guideline applies. Six months provides adequate time for applicants to review and revise their social impact assessment to ensure consistency with the guideline.

 

For other proposals that have already submitted or will do so within six months from the guideline’s publication date, the Department may request additional information about a proposal’s potential social impacts and the applicant’s assessment of those impacts, if needed. Any requests for additional information made by the Department will be consistent with the guideline.

 

The Department will contact applicants about these arrangements.

Social impact assessment (SIA) is part of the overall environmental impact assessment process, and is one of the many specialist studies (including environmental and economic studies) that contribute to the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted as part of the development application.

 

To support effective integration between social, economic and environmental considerations, these specialist studies should be undertaken in a coordinated way to avoid duplication and double counting. For example, information and analysis gather from other relevant specialist studies for the EIS should be used in the SIA part of the EIS and vice versa.

In the context of the guideline, social impacts are consequences experienced by people due to changes associated with a State significant resource project.

Social impacts can affect people in different ways. They can involve changes to people’s: way of life; community; access to services; culture; health and wellbeing; surroundings; personal and property rights; decision-making systems; and fears and aspirations about one or more of these things, or the future of their community. 


Social impacts may be experienced differently by different communities, by different people and groups within a community, and at different stages of a project’s life cycle. They can be direct or indirect, positive or negative, and tangible, intangible or perceived.

 

Examples of social impacts include:

  • increased diversity of community or loss of social cohesion
  •  increases or decreases in the availability of housing or services.
  • increases or decreases in visual or acoustic amenity
  • increases or decreases in the availability of labour and skills.

This guideline is for State significant resource project applicants, professionals engaged in the assessment of social impacts associated with those projects, and the wider community in understanding the social impact assessment (SIA) process. Assessment officers in the Department will also use the guideline when reviewing SIA-related information submitted by applicants at different environmental impact assessment (EIA) phases.

 

This guideline provides information on:

  • what social impacts are and how to integrate SIA into different EIA phases (Section 1)
  • what community and stakeholder engagement is expected for SIA activities (Section 2)
  • what SIA information project applicants are expected to provide: in the scoping phase of EIA (including a Scoping Tool to assist proponents) (Section 3); and in the environmental i
  • impact statement preparation phase of the overall EIA (Section 4)
  • how SIA information is considered in the assessment, determination and post-approval stages of EIA (Section 5)
  • key terms in the form of a glossary (Section 6).

The guideline will provide greater certainty to applicants and communities by establishing a clear, consistent and rigorous approach to assessing the social impacts of State significant resource projects. 


The guideline will support informed decision-making by strengthening the quality and relevance of information and analysis provided to the consent authority, and ensuring it reflects early, respectful and meaningful engagement with communities.

By promoting early identification of potential social impacts and a focus on minimising negative social impacts and enhancing positive ones, the guideline will help drive better project planning, design and development outcomes.


The guideline will also support greater transparency and accountability with respect to how social impacts are handled if the project is approved. This will be done through conditions of consent and by requiring a framework to be in place to monitor and manage social impacts over the life of the project.

The guideline integrates closely with the Department’s draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Improvement Guidance Series, which was recently exhibited. 

 

The guideline is also designed to be consistent with the Department’s Legislative Update Project

 

The Department will update the guideline to reflect the final products from both initiatives once completed.

 

The guideline is informed by advice from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (UQ CSRM), and engagement with individuals, government, industry, environment and community groups, and impact assessment professionals. It translates leading social impact assessment practice into the NSW development assessment system.

 

Early community and industry engagement


In July 2016, the Department, in partnership with UQ CSRM, ran a series of targeted engagement forums in a range of mining and resource communities across NSW. A forum was also held with mining and extractive industry representatives. The purpose of these forums was to better understand how local communities experience the social impacts of State significant resource projects and industry’s experience assessing them. This helped the Department to identify the scope and content of the draft guideline.

 

The feedback received through these forums is summarised in the following reports:
Social impact assessment community feedback report 

Social impact assessment industry feedback report

 

Exhibition of draft guideline


A draft guideline was on public exhibition between 8 December 2016 to 3 March 2017. A total of 63 submissions were received. The Department also held four community information sessions in this period, in Mudgee, Singleton, Gunnedah and Wollongong.

 

The guideline received broad support, with the sessions and submissions providing valuable feedback and insights. The public exhibition summary report highlights what we heard and how it influenced the design of the final guideline.

 

The draft guideline and individual submissions are available under the ‘Made/Finalised’ tab on the Department’s Plans and Policies webpage.

Page last updated: 14/09/2017