NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Social Impact Assessment

A new guideline to assess the social impacts of major projects

The new Social Impact Assessment Guideline requires all State significant projects to have a clear and consistent approach to assessing social impacts. This new Guideline builds on the previous Guideline that applied to State significant resource projects.

From October 2021, all new State significant projects need to prepare a social impact assessment (SIA). This will help to better understand and manage the impacts of State significant projects on people. The SIA guideline provides a framework to identify, predict and evaluate likely social impacts and propose responses to them.

A standardised approach will support communities and developers

The 2021 SIA Guideline aims to:

  • build higher levels of community understanding of projects
  • help proponents to understand what is required to meet the department’s expectations
  • give stakeholders and the community confidence that their concerns and perspectives are being considered early in the assessment
  • reduce project risks and costs related to unplanned or reactive management of social impacts
  • create better proponent-community relations and more socially sustainable outcomes
  • streamline assessments by reducing departmental requests for more information; and
  • better integrate the SIA and Environmental Impact Assessment.

View the guideline

To help you navigate the Guideline, we have prepared a Technical Supplement (PDF, 2.0 MB) and SIA Scoping Worksheet (XLSM, 93 KB).

The transitional arrangements information about the application of the 2021 SIA Guideline is available at the Planning Portal.

SIA supporting information

SIA Supporting Information

SIA Guideline Information Session

Watch the Social Impact Assessment Guideline 2021 presentation.


Social Locality

What is a project’s social locality?

The 2021 Social Impact Assessment Guideline requires all State significant projects with social impacts to map and define the project social locality.

The term ‘social locality’ is similar to ‘area of social influence’ commonly used in SIA practice. There is no fixed meaning or predefined geographic boundary to a social locality (e.g the local suburb, or “within 500m’). Instead, the scale of the social locality should be established on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the nature of the project and its impacts. The social baseline then describes the social context in the social locality.

Defining a project’s social locality

Identifying the social locality begins with understanding the nature of the project, the characteristics of affected communities and how positive and negative impacts may be reasonably perceived or experienced by different people.

Two animations have been developed to show different scales of social locality: a confined example for a project with minimal social impacts/benefits and a diverse social locality for a project with more complex social impacts benefits.



Engaging Aboriginal Communities - Practice Note

Engaging with Aboriginal communities is a specialised area which needs a culturally sensitive approach. This Practice Note (PDF, 1.8 MB) provides guidance on understanding of the value of this engagement and the principles and protocols to consider when planning for and engaging with Aboriginal communities for social impact assessment.

Development of the Guideline

The SIA Guideline and Technical Supplement have been updated in consideration of feedback received during the public exhibition period, and in response to the regulatory and policy changes of the Rapid Assessment Framework.

The Rapid Assessment Framework (RAF) for State significant projects introduced new streamlined processes for the assessment of major projects and came into effect at the same time as the SIA Guideline (1 October 2021). The RAF includes a number of guidance documents including, State Significant Development Guidelines, State Significant Infrastructure Guidelines, Undertaking Engagement Guidelines and Cumulative Impact Assessment Guidelines which can be accessed at the Rapid Assessment Framework page.

Individual submissions received during public exhibition between 30 October and 27 November 2020, and a summary submissions report are available, via our Planning Portal, along with all exhibited draft documents.


Social Impact Assessments: The Value Add


More information

For more information about SIA, you can:

Page last updated: 01/02/2023