The strategic assessment looks at the impacts of new and expanded coal mining on biodiversity in the Upper Hunter Valley, New South Wales. Strategic assessments let us consider impacts to protected matters on a broad scale. Projects or activities covered by an approved strategic assessment do not need individual approval.
Strategic assessments are a collaboration between the Australian Government and an assessment partner. This collaboration allows for a big-picture approach to safeguarding protected matters from the impacts of development over a long time.
The Upper Hunter (NSW) strategic assessment on this page is inactive. This means the Environment minister signed an agreement, but the Australian Government no longer anticipates receiving further documents to progress the strategic assessment.
The partner has no obligation to finalise the strategic assessment requirements. They may choose not to continue to seek approval for their development at any time.
Coal mining is a key activity in the Upper Hunter Valley. With listed threatened species and listed ecological communities in the area, proposals for new or expanding mines generally need approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
This is additional to state approval processes.
A strategic assessment in the Upper Hunter Valley would look at the impact of new and expanded coal mining on protected matters in the region. It would:
- identify areas with a high biodiversity value
- look at the growing impacts on protected matters in the assessment area.
There are many conservation benefits to managing these impacts ahead of time. These include:
- access to comprehensive information on biodiversity values within lease boundaries to avoid impacts before mine planning starts
- guidelines to minimise impacts on protected matters during the constructing and operating phases of the mine
- a framework for ecologically restoring lands after mining finishes.
Benefits also include a framework for offsetting unavoidable impacts, including:
- creating a pooled offset fund
- identifying regional priorities for investment
- finding new ways to supply offsets.
The Upper Hunter strategic assessment would help to balance development needs with environmental protection. This would enable a sensible, flexible approach to planning.
A strategic assessment also offers significant efficiency savings for industry and regulators. It removes the need for separate Australian Government assessment and approvals. The biodiversity plan would spell out all biodiversity requirements.
The NSW Planning Portal has more information on the Upper Hunter Strategic Assessment.
Figure 1: Location of Upper Hunter Valley strategic assessment area
Strategic assessment agreement
The strategic assessment agreement was signed on 20 September 2012.
The agreement describes the process to follow for assessment, and the requirements under national environmental law.
Agreement for a Strategic Assessment of a Biodiversity Plan for Coal Mining in the Upper Hunter Valley, NSW (PDF 446.88 KB)
Agreement for a Strategic Assessment of a Biodiversity Plan for Coal Mining in the Upper Hunter Valley, NSW (DOC 578.5 KB)
Terms of reference
The terms of reference for a strategic assessment detail how the strategic assessment partner is to assess the impacts of their proposed development activities.
The former NSW Government Department of Planning and Infrastructure released the draft terms of reference for public comment from 31 May to 5 July 2013.
The public submissions report, prepared by the NSW Government, summarises:
- the issues raised during the public comment process
- how the terms of reference address these.
Summary of submissions on the Draft Terms of Reference for the Upper Hunter Strategic Assessment (PDF 90.19 KB)
Summary of submissions on the Draft Terms of Reference for the Upper Hunter Strategic Assessment (DOC 62.5 KB)
The terms of reference for this assessment were finalised on 12 December 2013.
Final terms of reference for the Upper Hunter Valley strategic assessment (PDF 316.44 KB)
Final terms of reference for the Upper Hunter Valley strategic assessment (DOCX 305.14 KB)
The biodiversity plan and strategic assessment report
The NSW Government would usually release the draft biodiversity plan and strategic assessment report for public consultation before they're finalised.
If the biodiversity plan adequately addressed impacts to protected matters, the Commonwealth Environment minister would then consider endorsing the plan under the EPBC Act.
Get in touch
Contact our Referrals Gateway team:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 1800 423 135 between 9 am and 5 pm Canberra time.