A strategic approach to the use of environmental impact assessment and risk assessment within the decision-making process
The Resource Management Law Reform process presently underway is likely to result in considerable changes being made to the way in which the assessment processes, which are the subject of this work, fit within the revised institutional arrangements. When this project was proposed it was not obvious that these changes would have as major an influence as is presently understood. This uncertainty has made it difficult to make precise recommendations as was originally intended. This is not necessarily to the detriment of the project since the further this research has progressed the more obvious it has become that impact assessment procedures are in general heavily value laden despite a greater tendency towards the use of quantitative methods. This, along with rapidly changing methodologies means that it is important that the institutional basis for impact assessment remains as flexible as possible, whilst ensuring that the protection afforded by proper evaluation and management impacts is available to society. There are two main policy questions regarding impact assessment that must be answered before guidelines can be established. First of all, does society wish to regulate for 'risky' situations or does it wish to use other mechanisms such as voluntary compliance? Secondly, if assessment procedures are to be used as a tool in either case, then who is to be responsible for the analysis? Developers and proponents are looking for clear policy guidelines which: firstly, define the types of allowable activities on a national, regional and local basis; and secondly, define the institutional or regulatory requirements for specific activities. There is a feeling that the problems of dealing with risk will be solved if developers are given a clear guide as to the requirements that must be fulfilled for their project to receive approval. One suggestion is that a checklist capable of being applied to a large number of situations be compiled. The difficulty is that by the time all possible contingencies were covered the checklist would most likely be incomprehensible. This type of approach might, however, be useful for a limited type of development or activity (for example, installations storing or using hazardous substances). Before explicit management guidelines can be specified the policy issues with respect to the use of assessment procedures need to be clarified. This report discusses the policy / management relationship and related issues, but adopts a management perspective. If assessment procedures are to be effective they must be viewed within a management framework where the full range of conditions including implementation of the selected option and monitoring of the impacts can be assessed. This report does not attempt to provide a precise process to be followed for impact assessment. What it does do is: examine the need for such procedures; consider where they fit within the traditional decision-making process; and suggest a generalised approach for dealing with public and private proposals where consent procedures are required. A part of the work presented here in the final part of this project is the product of discussions and correspondence with risk practitioners, or people working in areas involving practical impact assessment. These discussions have been invaluable in the search towards understanding the changing attitudes towards impact assessments in general, risk analysis, risk research and risk management.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsrisk management; decision making; legislation; environmental impact; environmental policy; impact assessment; regulatory environment
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