The exploitation of natural resources within areas that are valued for their environmental qualities raises competing emotions. This paper considers a proposal to undertake petroleum exploration in an area of recognised environmental value, namely, the Coongie Lakes of far north-east South Australia. In development cases such as this, the level of inquiry needs to address environmental, social, cultural and economic issues from a range of interest groups; therefore, the process of assessment is a crucial factor in minimising conflict and meeting the wishes of the stakeholders. In the example of Coongie Lakes, the chosen method failed. This paper discusses the perspectives of the major stakeholders, the process of assessment undertaken, and the criticisms directed at this process. The apparent inadequacies of the assessment process undertaken are then highlighted, and an alternative assessment procedure suggested.
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