Evaluating impact assessment processes and their possible future contribution to regional development
Impact assessment currently forms and will continue to play a major part of industrial development in Australia and increasingly globally. While the impact assessment processes used have evolved they are still traditionally undertaken as a single issue and point in time analysis (social, environmental or economic assessment). With an increased focus on regional growth management and a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach to sustainable regional development it is now timely to think about the existing contribution and possible future role the impact assessment process could take. It is the purpose of this paper to report on (a) a review of the existing impact assessment processes in Queensland (b) an evaluation of the effectiveness and limitations of the existing process and (c) to propose a need for a more holistic and integrated approach for the future.The review has found the current system, while evolving, does not adequately take into consideration contemporary needs of the whole of industry life cycle or the TBL implications of the various stages of (1) the industry establishment, (2) growth and operations and (3) the eventual wind down and closure of the industry activity on the site. The paper explores the opportunities to further enhance the existing process to take these matters into account.The paper firstly explores the genesis of impact assessment and how it has evolved through time. The paper then explores the various strengths and weaknesses of the existing assessment processes as they relate to emerging community and environmental interests and needs. The paper then proposes and explores the various options and challenges to meet the future sustainable development needs of regions and their communities. The paper closes by with suggestions and opportunities to improve the current system that will take into account the wider implications of a whole of industry life cycle approach, the cumulative impacts of industry growth and the necessary linkage with regional planning and growth management frameworks.