This page answers questions raised during information sessions about the draft Social Impact Assessment Guideline and supporting Technical Supplement which are currently on exhibition.
The Social Impact Assessment (SIA) process is an integral part of the EIS process. The draft guideline outlines how social impact assessment is a phased part of the EIS project.
The Phase 1 process occurs during the scoping phase of the project and the environmental impact assessment. The Phase 1 SIA seeks to identify the scale of the social assessment required. The Phase 1 SIA will be part of the EIS scoping report and request for Secretaries Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARS). The Department will then develop relevant SEARS for SIA in response to the Phase 1 SIA.
Phase 2 SIAs align with the development of the EIS process, and Phase 3, the Social Impact Management Plan aligns with the post approvals operation and management phase.
All social impacts can be considered under the 8 categories or groups described in the guideline. For example, mental health impacts should be considered in the same way as other impacts and would be considered as a health and wellbeing impact, but may also be related to surroundings, livelihoods, or community for example. Similarly, amenity impacts would be assessed and considered as an impact to surroundings but may also relate to people’s way of life, community, health and wellbeing, or culture. The guideline doesn’t identify or address every impact, but the categories provide a framework for thinking about the types of social impacts. The key point is, whatever category is considered most relevant, impacts like mental health and amenity are assessed from the point of view of how people will experience change, rather than simply citing epidemiological and technical data, for example.
We are hopeful that after the period of consultation we will be able to take on board feedback and progress to a final Guideline in the first quarter of 2021.
The SIA framework is designed to be applicable to both geographical and temporal variations in impacts. We aim for it to be applied considering the categories of impact over the various spatial areas and time scales for a project, for example that may vary across construction, operation, or perhaps closure stages of a project life cycle, and the nuanced variations within those stages and their social localities.
In the 2017 SIA Guideline fears and aspirations were described as relating to one or a combination of the other impact areas or about the future. To avoid it being considered as a stand-alone issue, and to highlight its importance the new guideline considers this an overarching characteristic or dimension of an impact across any impact category. For example, the fears or aspirations of a community can be considered in relation to their surroundings, their livelihood, their health and well-being or several of these.
The draft Guideline includes review questions to provide transparency around how it should be applied and the standard to which proponents should be held. This is a useful tool for many different people including communities, proponents, practitioners and the Department. We see the Guideline has also been developed in a plain English style to make it more accessible to a broader audience, including diverse communities.
The Guideline has a clear reference to the preparation of Social Impact Management Plans (SIMPs) which will look to manage ongoing and unforeseen social impacts and how they will be monitored and managed. SIMPs should also outline approaches to addressing social impact assessment related to any design refinement. We also recognise that this is an ongoing issue and internally are looking at opportunities to improve the management of social impacts post approval.
The Guideline and the Technical Supplement outline the requirements for SIMPs. It is recommended that the SIA compromise a preliminary SIMP, noting the recommended inclusions for a final SIMP. A condition of consent may require a final SIMP to be developed and submitted for approval by the Department.
The process for SIA is that they are prepared by proponents and provided to the Department for review. The Department review may be undertaken by; the assessment officer, the assessment officer may seek advice from our SIA Specialist, or our Social Impact Assessment Specialist may undertake the review. In specific circumstances, the Department can also commission a peer review of SIAs as required. Our approach to review depends on the complexity of the social impact assessment.
The draft Social Impact Assessment Guideline includes consideration of cumulative social impacts, meaning that there is an expectation the SIAs will consider cumulative impacts. The Department is also working on other approaches to better manage cumulative impacts of State significant projects which we hope to share in the future.
The focus of the draft Social Impact Assessment Guideline is certainly on State significant projects. We aim for this to create a process that engages and identifies social impacts well. Although it hasn’t been prepared for other projects, it could provide the opportunity to guide social planners for non-State significant projects.
Each of the different categories of State significant projects have thresholds for being considered State significant, and these might relate to size, economic value or potential impacts. The thresholds for various project types are detailed in the schedules of the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) State and Regional Development. For example; in the aquaculture, intensive agriculture and timber processing industries, projects with a capital investment of over $30 million, undertaking specified activities, and in the case of aquaculture, located in an environmentally sensitive area of state significance, would be considered State significant projects.
The SIA Guideline 2020 and other supporting documents can be found on the Social Impact Assessment page, along with the SIA Technical Supplement, which provides further technical guidance to practitioners.
Page last updated: 27/11/2020