Frequently Asked Questions

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) help to explain the Bioregional Assessment Program. Click on the questions below to go to the answer.

Questions and Answers

What are bioregional assessments?

Bioregional assessments are independent, scientific assessments of the potential cumulative impacts of coal and unconventional gas developments on the environment.

The Australian Government has two separate programs of bioregional assessments: the Bioregional Assessment Program, and the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program. The Bioregional Assessment Program is expected to be completed in 2018 and assesses the potential impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on surface and ground water and ecosystems or assets that depend on them. The Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program began in 2017 and will assess the potential impacts of shale and tight gas development on water and the environment.

How can bioregional assessments be used?

Bioregional assessments will identify areas where impacts on water resources and water-dependent assets are likely to occur. This will allow governments, industry and the community to focus on these areas when making regulatory, water management and planning decisions. Importantly, the assessments will also identify areas where impacts will not occur.

How were Bioregional Assessment Program bioregions selected?

The assessments focus on bioregions which are defined by landscape-scale natural features such as geological and river basins that support distinctive ecosystems. Bioregions were selected based on:

  • the number and size of current exploration activities and the number of current and potential coal seam gas and coal mining developments
  • areas where new scientific knowledge can be developed about the potential impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on water resources
  • areas identified by governments through the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.
What are water-dependent assets?

Water-dependent assets are things in the landscape which the community values that rely on surface water or groundwater. These assets could potentially be impacted by changes in groundwater or surface water due to coal seam gas or coal mining development.

Assets have been identified by community groups such as natural resource management groups for their ecological, economic, social or cultural values. For example, a wetland that provides habitat for waterbirds, river water or groundwater used for agriculture, or a sacred site which has cultural significance are all assets.

Will bioregional assessments determine which projects get approved?

No. Bioregional assessments are not regulatory decisions.

Gas and coal mining proposals are subject to state and national environmental laws. For coal seam gas and large coal mining developments, water resources must be considered in decisions on whether these developments are acceptable uder the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Before making a decision on whether the project can proceed, the Australian Government Minister for the Environment considers advice on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC), who can use bioregional assessments to inform their advice. The IESC also provide advice to state governments to inform their regulatory decisions.

Will decisions on new developments be delayed while the bioregional assessments are being completed?

Regulatory decision-making is continuing while bioregional assessments are under way. Regulators can use products from bioregional assessments when considering documents submitted by proponents as part of the assessment process or conditions on their approval.

Products (such as data registers and reports) are being released periodically as assessments progress, continually improving information for decision making over time.

Why do Bioregional Assessment Program products differ between regions?

Not all products will be produced in all subregions and bioregions. This will ensure that effort (including Australian Government funding) is focused on areas where a greater level of coal and coal seam gas development is expected and new scientific knowledge can be developed. It will also avoid duplicating other work.

Who is involved in contributing data?

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, CSIRO and Geoscience Australia are liaising with state government agencies, natural resource managers, local governments, industry groups and their members, and other scientists and organisations to identify and collect relevant data.

Local experts, including representatives from councils and natural resource management groups, are being invited to contribute at specific points throughout the assessments. 

Who will check the bioregional assessments have been done properly?

Information and scientific analysis produced by bioregional assessments is subject to a rigorous quality assurance process before being finalised. Products are reviewed by senior science leaders with technical expertise in relevant fields. 

Will bioregional assessments consider human health impacts?

No. However, salinity changes which could affect the use of water by humans is considered where data are available.

Does the Bioregional Assessment Program consider social and economic impacts?

The Bioregional Assessment Program considers the potential water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water-dependent assets, some of which have social, cultural or economic value, for example, river reaches, irrigation areas and wetlands.

Last updated:
19 June 2018