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The overall objective of this assignment is to develop an understanding of best practice Environmental Impact Assessment EIA principles with respect to theory and legal processes, and to successfully integrate this material into a succinct but engaging and informative research report.

Assignment Tasks

Choose ONE of the following topics: Adaptive management, alternatives, cumulative impacts, rigorous, significance, strategic, uncertainty

1. Drawing on a wide range of international sources, develop two criteria for best practice EIA specifically tailored to your topic.

2. Critically review the EIA institutional provisions in WA* against your criteria, highlighting the extent to which there is conformance with your best practice criteria (i.e. relative strengths and weaknesses of WA approach, e.g. to what extent do the WA institutional arrangements represent 'best practice EIA' for your chosen topic?).

Entire research report is to be specifically about your chosen topic alone.

 

Format requirements

To obtain a passing grade, your research report must include the following:

• Descriptive title (i.e. write about your EIA topic (not about "ENV556");

• An Abstract of not more than 200 words. An abstract is an entire summary of the report, so it must present: introduction, method, results/discussion and conclusion components (in that sequence)

[Note: this is probably the toughest thing you will ever have had to write - are you up for the challenge?];

• a Table of Contents - with numbered section headings and corresponding page numbers;

• an Introduction - i.e. the background to and aims of your research;

• a referenced account of the Methodology used to conduct your research (this may legimately be included within the introduction section immediately after the research aims)

[Note: you are expected to engage with appropriate research methods literature and to cite relevant materials accordingly so as to validate your methodological approach];

• results/discussion components that address each of the two assignment tasks fully and equally (each task is of equal importance, and therefore should be granted approximately equal weighting or attention in your research report);

• a conclusion section; and

• list of references cited in the text.

 

The main body of your research report must be no longer than 2500 words excluding the list of references, title page, Abstract, Table of Contents and any appendices. It must be presented in a scientific (or 'report') style using author-date referencing with all materials properly referenced. You are encouraged to be creative regarding the design and presentation of your research work in an attractive and effective manner. For example, you may wish to include figures, tables or boxes in the main body of your research report. Ensure that all figures, tables or boxes are properly numbered and named, with a cross-reference within the text of your report and an entry in the Table of Contents (i.e. professional report writing standard is expected for all aspects of your writing).

 

RESEARCH AND WRITING TIPS

Evidence-based argument: The assignment is a scientific and academic undertaking, meaning that all arguments should be supported with evidence. With respect to criteria development, this means engaging with the international EIA literature. With respect to the WA institutional arrangements for EIA, it means explicitly engaging with relevant sections of the EPAct 1986, Admin Proc 2012 and EIA guidance materials.

Research effort and sources: At a minimum you are expected to engage with at least:

  • five international EIA sources;
  • one section of the EPAct [note: it is not possible to conduct the assignment without this explicit engagement, no matter which topic you have chosen to address];
  • two sections of the Admin Proc 2012; and
  • two EIA guidance documents.

You are obviously encouraged to extend beyond this minimum level.

Getting started on your research and report content: It is recommended that you start by reviewing your chosen EIA 'topic' in the published literature and establishing some kind of guide or criteria for best practice (i.e. you can only 'critique' something if you have some appropriate 'test' to apply or measure to compare against). Justify and support your discussion and derived criteria with reference to the international EIA literature. Your criteria should be developed in such a way that they could be applied to any EIA system (as represented by the institutional arrangements for EIA process) anywhere in the world. In other words, the "principles of EIA" are universal and are not meant to be project or jurisdiction specific.

Explanation of the method backed up with evidence or justification (i.e. reference citations) is critical to the success of your assignment (however, it does not need to be long or complicated). Remember that in science, methods are documented so that future researchers can repeat your experiment and verify the outcome. When scientific experiments have been verified several times, then the findings become 'truths' or new knowledge. Whilst you are not exactly undertaking a scientific experiment in this assignment, the philosophy underlying the way in which you present your work should be the same. Hence providing some guidance to future researchers on how to apply your criteria to assess institutional arrangements in relation to 'best practice' EIA is essential.

When assessing the WA institutional arrangements for EIA you should take a critical approach. Do not simply summarise the content of the EIA documents. You should concentrate upon the substantive content of the materials and the quality of the arguments presented and the EIA approaches/techniques that have been used. Do not hold back from criticising or praising either, but do give some consideration to the inevitable divergence between the ideal and what can be achieved in practice.

Make sure that the EIA topic you select for analysis and your derived criteria provide some meaningful discussion. For example if you choose something obvious that is a normal part EIA practice (e.g. a hypothetical example if public engagement were one of the topics available to you, such as 'the EIA should be subjected to public review') then there is nothing of interest to say in your subsequent discussion (i.e. because in nearly all jurisdictions worldwide there is a legal requirement for public review to occur and certainly this is the case in WA. To continue with this hypothetical example, in comparison it would be far more interesting to learn to what extent the public consultation represents 'best practice' which you would need to appropriately define in some way or fulfills/breaches the principles of natural justice). [Another example of an inappropriate criterion would be 'Cumulative effects are considered' because this does not communicate anything of meaning/substance; it would be much more interesting to learn whether cumulative effects were examined in appropriate detail and how this might influence outcomes/decision-making during EIA]. Thus you need to give careful and considered thought to the establishment of your criteria and what is really meant by 'best practice EIA'!

Tip: examine each task carefully, break them down into parts and be thorough. e.g.

Task 1: What would constitute international best practice EIA for your topic?
Drawing upon at least 15 reputable sources from the international literature, review and distil what you consider to be the two highest priority best practice aspects for your topic. Express these succinctly as best practice criteria that can be applied in a meaningful way to any EIA process.
[Note: 'two' means two - 1 criterion is insufficient, 3 criteria too many given word limits; keep your criteria simple (i.e. no lists or multiple parts)].

Task 2: How is your topic addressed in the EIA institutional arrangements in Western Australia?
Benchmark relevant sections of (a) EIA legislation (Environmental Protection Act 1986 WA), (b) regulations (EIA Administrative Procedures 2012) and (c) EIA guidance materials (see EPA website for these) against your best practice criteria. Identify particular strengths or weaknesses of the EIA institutional arrangements with respect to your best practice criteria from Task 1, along with any suggestions for how the situation could be improved.

 

 

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