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A3n Legal and policy frameworks for SEA in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific

John Ashe, Australia

Key issues to be addressed

Position Paper:

Australia’s federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 includes explicit provision for discretionary strategic assessment of actions that may be carried out under a proposed policy, program or plan. It also contains specific provisions for the strategic assessment of Commonwealth-managed fisheries. Under the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994, SEA-type assessments are also required for proposed National Environment Protection Measures, for example, those relating to ambient air quality and controlled waste. At the State and Territory level, there is provision for SEA-type assessments in several jurisdictions.

In New Zealand, the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) integrates EIA with the planning system, with planning and decision-making occurring mainly at the local and regional level. Although it does not include an explicit SEA requirement, the RMA requires a rigorous approach to policy and plan formulation under the Act, including the consideration of alternatives and the assessment of benefits and costs. The RMA is seen by some as providing only a weak mandate for SEA, best characterised as a form of environmental policy appraisal. Others have, however, proposed that SEA, as a process with “para-SEA” elements rather than a formal system, is alive and well. Initiatives arising out of the recent review of the RMA, and the incorporation of sustainability requirements into legislation, are also seen as favourable to SEA.

EIA procedures in the Pacific are in varying stages of development. International aid agencies, including AusAID and NZAID, use SEA procedures in the development of country strategies and in the formulation of policies, plan, programs and regional and sectoral strategies. SEA may also be an element of large cooperative regional projects.

The session will discuss lessons learned from development of SEA in the region through presentation of selected contributions and facilitated discussion. Contributions on the following issues are particularly encouraged:

•  Strengths and weaknesses of the current SEA legislative and policy regimes in the region.

•  Lessons to be learned from experience in applying current legislation and policy in the different jurisdictions (including consideration of case studies).

•  Linkages between SEA, land-use planning and other environmental protection mechanisms.

•  The use of SEA in development assistance programs in the region and regional cooperative programs.

•  Implications of developments in legislation and policy to promote sustainable development, including potential or actual use of SEA as a tool for sustainability assessment.

Discussion streams and topic-related sessions

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