In these pages you can learn more about the Bioregional Assessment Program, including information on what the bioregional assessments are and how Commonwealth agencies are working together to deliver them. You can also explore Frequently Asked Questions and be kept up-to-date with progress.
Information on the new program of geological and bioregional assessments, which will be conducted in selected areas prospective for shale and tight gas, can be found here.
The Bioregional Assessment Program
The Australian Government is undertaking a program of bioregional assessments in order to better understand the potential impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources and water-dependent assets. The Bioregional Assessment Program is one of a number of actions being undertaken by the Australian Government to strengthen the science used to inform decisions on coal seam gas and large coal mining developments.
The bioregional assessments focus on selected areas across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. These states are the four signatory states under the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development. The assessments provide a risk analysis that identifies areas where potential impacts are likely to occur. Just as important, the assessments also identify areas where impacts are unlikely to occur. This allows governments, industry and the community to focus on these areas when making regulatory, water management and planning decisions.
The bioregional assessments:
- Assess the potential impacts, particularly focusing on regional scale and cumulative impacts, due to coal seam gas and open-cut and underground coal mining developments (in the past, present and foreseeable future).
- Investigate risk by indicating the level of impact and the probability of that impact occurring.
- Are made up of a number of products such as compilations of relevant data, descriptions of coal resources, lists of water-dependent assets, conceptual models, diagrams of water balances, outputs of numerical and analytical models, lists of possible risks and their likelihoods, and descriptions of the possible impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on water resources. All of these products are available to the public.
- Are developed by independent scientific experts in the fields of ecology, hydrology, hydrogeology, geology, informatics (computer information systems) and risk analysis, in consultation with state government agencies, catchment management authorities, local governments, and industry groups and their members.
Release of bioregional assessment results
The first component of work that brings together background information about each subregion or bioregion in reports and registers will be available as technical products are finalised. Full results from the bioregional assessments are expected to start being released from late-2016 through to 2018. This will include products providing model-data analysis and impact analysis which will be jointly released with a synthesis of the full bioregional assessment.
How bioregional assessments can be used
The assessments will inform Commonwealth and state government decisions in regulating coal seam gas and coal mining operations. For example, bioregional assessments are a source of information that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development can use to formulate their advice to the Australian Government on decisions under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and to state government regulators. Development proponents can use the information in writing environmental impact statements for coal seam gas and coal mining proposals.
The bioregional assessments will also be used to identify data and knowledge gaps where further information is required before development applications proceed.