Ecological assessment requirements for development in Queensland vary in response to the applicable development approval pathway.
In most cases, a small development (residential or industrial) is subject to the requirements of a local government planning scheme and the development assessment branch of Council will liaise with State government bodies (referral agencies) to assess an application where State matters are triggered. Most local governments provide guidelines for Ecological Assessments to accompany development applications.
More complex developments may require submission to, be directed by Council to, or be ‘called in’ by, the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) for assessment.
Infrastructure projects, such as road, rail and energy infrastructure, are often subject to separate approvals processes and/or are exempt from some components of standard planning approvals processes. They can be managed under local government processes, or at the State level when multiple LGAs are affected.
If a project is deemed to have ‘Coordinated Project’ status (with complex approval requirements, strategic significance and/or involving significant infrastructure), the impact assessment process is coordinated and assessed by the Queensland Coordinator General and Terms of Reference for the assessment are issued.
Where matters of National Environmental Significance are present (specifically listed threatened species, threatened ecological communities, lands, waters or species subject to international agreements or treaties including migratory shorebirds, World Heritage Areas and Ramsar wetlands) depending on the scale of impact it may be necessary to refer the proposal to the Commonwealth government (an EPBC Act referral). If the Commonwealth deems the project to be a ‘controlled action’ it will provide details of how the project impacts are to be assessed and reported.
How We Do It
In working to inform development assessment in all sectors over 20 years we are practiced in providing Ecological Assessment for Queensland projects to meet the requirements of all relevant development approval pathways, as well as providing peer review services to local and State government departments to assess the reliability of terrestrial ecology information provided with development applications.
Knowing the appropriate amount of survey effort required to meet regulator requirements is important to (1) ensure our advice regarding the need for EPBC Act referral of a project is accurate, noting that other government agencies, organisations or members of the public are able to initiate Commonwealth involvement, and (2) not wasting survey effort (and proponent time and money) on matters that are not relevant to the site and/or the applicable assessment process.
Our staff of ecology professionals have a combined experience of over 200 years of practice. We have a comprehensive understanding of the regulatory requirements and guidelines applied to ecological assessment and have developed efficient field techniques to respond to the appropriate levels of assessment.
Our Field Skills
Our range of field skills includes:
- Regional Ecosystem ground-truthing,
- collecting data to amend Regional Ecosystem mapping (PMAV Applications),
- targeted surveys for protected plants,
- habitat assessment for threatened species and subsequent habitat mapping,
- Identification of animal breeding places,
- BioCondition and habitat quality surveys,
- Koala surveys,
- weed surveys,
- comprehensive flora inventory, and
- targeted fauna survey programs (employing relevant methods such as box traps, pitfall traps, mist nets, camera traps, bird census, spotlighting and call playback).
While the scope of the assessment can be set by the client, a standard Ecological Assessment Report will include all the information necessary for inclusion with a development application, provided initially in draft format for review. It sets out:
- a description of the development and actions taken in the project planning phase to reduce ecological impacts,
- the results of ecological desktop and field assessments,
- an assessment of terrestrial ecology impacts relevant to the project,
- how legislation applies to recorded and/or expected values,
- recommendations to avoid or mitigate impacts of the project on identified ecological values,
- a recommendation regarding need for an EPBC Act referral,
- likely offset requirements where impacts cannot be avoided,
- any actions required for permit applications, and
- recommended measures to protect and/or treat retained habitats.
Application of regulator guidelines change over time; therefore, we are in regular contact with all levels of government to confirm interpretations and requirements to meet regulator expectations. The thoroughness and accuracy of our outputs facilitate efficient progress through the various development application processes.