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NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
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Improving Environmental Impact Assessment

The Department of Planning and Environment is reviewing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for State significant projects in NSW to identify areas for improvement. In October 2016, we invited feedback from the community and other stakeholders on a discussion paper which outlined proposed improvements.

Read the discussion paper

About Environmental Impact Assessment for State significant projects

The Department assesses the potential impacts of a proposal for a State significant project before a decision is made by the Minister for Planning or the Minister’s delegate on whether or not a project is approved. We assess information provided in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and consider feedback from government agencies and the community.


EIA for both State significant development (SSD) and State significant infrastructure (SSI) proposals refers to the way in which the environmental, social and economic impacts are considered. It includes:

  • the project development
  • setting the terms of reference for the EIS through Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs)
  • preparation of the EIS including consultation with government agencies and the community
  • public exhibition of the EIS
  • receipt of submissions and responding to those submissions
  • assessment of the project by the Department
  • determination of the project by the Minister (or delegate)
  • monitoring and compliance when projects are being constructed and operated.


About the EIA Improvement Project

We considered the way NSW approaches EIA and the approaches of other jurisdictions, both within Australia and internationally. We also looked at the issues that have been raised by the community and other stakeholders to identify the most important improvements.


Following this review, we asked for input from stakeholders including government agencies, industry, community groups and the public, to help us to develop the improvements that are presented in the draft guidelines as part of the EIA Guidance Series (now on exhibition). A consultation report was prepared in response to the engagement undertaken.

Implementing the new guidelines will:

  • create a consistent framework for setting the scope of the EIS
  • ensure earlier and better engagement with the community and other stakeholders
  • improve the quality of EIA documents
  • provide a standard framework for setting conditions for the construction and operation of projects
  • provide greater clarity on the approved project to improve post-approval compliance
  • increase accountability for the practice of EIA professionals.


Additional improvements, not included in the draft guidelines, are also being developed. These will give further guidance on an approach to cumulative impact assessment and professional practice requirements for those undertaking EIA.


We are also proposing changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 to give effect to the guidelines.


Other initiatives that are linked to improving EIA include:

  • Legislative updates involving changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  • Draft Social Impact Assessment Guidelines
  • Community Consultative Committee Guidelines.


Next Steps

We are seeking your feedback on nine draft guidelines. This is your opportunity to shape the future of EIA in NSW, to ensure balanced environmental, social and economic outcomes.


The first draft guideline is an overview summarising key changes proposed in the guidelines.


To view the overview document and the guidelines, click on the Community Feedback tab or contact us.

Page last updated: 24/09/2020