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Fit for purpose? Establishing the robustness of EIA screening systems for land-use planning using a case study from South Australia

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Screening is a critical first stage of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process, vetting development proposals to determine whether or not they require a full assessment. Inadequately executed significance tests undermine EIA's purpose of environmental protection. There is considerable variation across jurisdictions in terms of prescriptive and discretionary significance tests and the criteria and thresholds within them. Of all aspects of EIA, screening is cited as the most frequent source of actual infringements, yet there is a dearth of research in this area. This paper presents an empirical study from South Australia that investigates the adequacy of its discretionary screening process. The findings suggest that improvements are much needed toward improved consistency and transparency of decision-making and, ultimately better environmental protection. The paper prompts a thorough examination of significance testing elsewhere.
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Keywords: EIA effectiveness; South Australia; environmental impact assessment; impact significance; land-use planning; screening

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia

Publication date: March 3, 2016

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