MINING companies will have to engage with local residents and communities about the impacts resources projects will have on their lives under a new assessment guideline, the NSW Government announced last week.
NSW's first social impact assessment guideline for major resource projects aims to provide greater certainty to communities and applicants by establishing a clear, consistent and rigorous approach to assessing the social impacts of major mining, petroleum and extractive projects.
Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, said the approach is based on current international leading practice and requires applicants to engage early to build a deep understanding of what the project might mean for people and their communities.
Mr Roberts said examples of positive social impacts may include increased employment opportunities and support for local businesses and organisations, whilst examples of negative social impacts may include community dislocation and amenity loss.
"The guideline will ensure potential social impacts are thoroughly considered and addressed in the comprehensive economic, social and environmental assessment of major resource projects," Mr Roberts said.
"The guideline requires applicants to build a robust, evidence-based understanding of what the project will mean for people and their communities.
"It provides an approach that can be tailored to suit the nature and scale of a proposal's potential social impacts, and ensure the assessment focuses on the most important issues.
"Better quality and more relevant information and analysis will drive improved project planning and design, and support an informed decision about whether a project should be approved and under what conditions.
"Driving greater transparency and accountability with respect to how social impacts are monitored and managed if the project is approved is also a key focus."
Future Secretary's Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) will include a requirement for companies to apply the guideline in preparing the social impact assessment for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The Department of Planning and Environment will review the EIS before putting it on public exhibition. If it fails to address the SEARs, the Department can require the applicant to submit an amended EIS.
Mr Roberts added that extensive consultation with community groups, industry, councils and impact assessment professionals throughout the guideline's development provided invaluable insights to the Department.
"The draft guideline exhibited earlier this year received broad support, and we've summarised the feedback received into a report."
More information is available from the Department of Planning and Environment website at <http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/socialimpactassessment>.