Skip to content
Curtin University
Urbanet

The use of environmental offsets in environmental impacts assessment in WA

The use of environmental offsets in environmental impacts assessment in WA

This study reviewed the use of offsets in the Western Australian environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. The study noted that two new types of offsets have emerged over time in response to the uncertainty associated with some major resource projects in WA. The first type of offset is a ‘residual risk’ offset, which is provided in recognition of potential, but uncertain risks associated with the proposal. The second type is a ‘banked’ offset, which is an offset that is called upon only in the event that negative environmental impacts occur. These ‘offsets for uncertainty’ have the potential to be used more broadly as a policy tool in EIA where there is significant uncertainty of impacts, although caution should be used in applying them too widely, especially where residual risk is considered unacceptable. The study went on to seek the views of key EIA practitioners in WA on the application of offsets through the WA EIA process. Six key themes and concerns emerged. In summary they are: the current process of setting offsets could lead to a perception that an approval has been bought, particularly for those projects that have significant residual impacts: concern that there is no legal framework in WA to support the use of offsets use through EIA; it is not clear which agency has final responsibility for setting, implementing and monitoring offsets;  divided views as to which stage in the EIA process offsets should be first considered; divided views as to the adequacy of the existing offsets policy framework; and a more strategic approach to implementing offsets was essential.

Research team

Dr Garry Middle Curtin University