This is a work in progress. As questions arise on the subject of EcIA Guidelines, the responses will be provided here.
Q. We already have fauna and flora survey guidelines and other requirements by law. Why do we need guidelines at all?
A. The production of guidelines compliments existing processes. Guidelines would describe how one goes about doing an assessment because rarely (if ever) is there comprehensive statutory definition of the day-to-day methods. However, EcIA also depends entirely on other tools, such as lists of 'standard' survey methods and predetermined evaluation criteria e.g. biodiversity action plans. In short, EcIA Guidelines can only go so far. Decisions depend on good on the ground advice about what is important. Nevertheless, if the appropriate tools do not exist, there is advice in the guidelines on how to bridge the gap. The other thing to do, is read our recent submission to the Commonwealth on biodiversity, which can be downloaded here. It shows the relationship between EcIA guidelines and other things. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that a guidelines document would tell the story about how EcIA should be done. It doesn't specify detail and for that, you are right, existing processes should be incorporated.
Q. Regarding EcIA Guidelines, will you involve local government practitioners on the tools they currently use and their effectiveness (or otherwise)?
A. We won't be concentrating on this immediately but it is likely to be something that could come out of the process, once such guidelines start to be applied. The problem seems to be that there does not yet exist a benchmark set of objectives or overall philosophy about what we're trying to achieve in biodiversity conservation and how we think it should be done. With local government help through biodiversity planning at the grass roots, EcIA can help go some of the way to doing this. If it is successful and starts to be applied, it might then start to reveal strengths and weaknesses in different approaches, prompting constructive feedback.
Q. Is it wise to divide ecological impact assessment from environmental impact assessment? The terms are not mutually exclusive and we should not encourage any one discipline to assume it has the big picture.
A. Ecological impact assessment could easily just be called "ecological assessment". For example, EIA tends to be a formal process but as described in the EcIA document, EcIA can apply more broadly. Nevertheless, EcIA is more often than not, used as a component for EIA. However, this does not stand it apart from that process, as EIA also incorporates other disciplines. Social and cultural impact assessment have their own approaches again. One of the benefits of having guidance on EcIA is to ensure that it is compatible with the other elements of EIA. This should make it less isolated and divisive than it is at present. Throughout the EIANZ Ecology document, the importance of rigorous integration with social and cultural issues, as well as EIA, is constantly repeated.