Consultation is not just a fundamental requirement for NOPSEMA’s acceptance of an environment plan, it is a process that is crucial to understanding the risks and potential impacts of a proposed offshore petroleum activity and gaining stakeholder confidence that the environmental impacts and risks of petroleum activities will be of an acceptable level.
Under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations) a titleholder is required to consult with ‘relevant persons’ throughout the planning, decision making and implementation stages of a petroleum activity within Commonwealth waters.
A relevant person includes any person whose functions, interests or activities may be affected by the proposed offshore petroleum activity.
NOPSEMA encourages titleholders to consider the following principles of effective consultation, which have been adapted from a report by the Commonwealth Ministerial Council on Mineral and Petroleum Resources:
Communication Open and effective engagement should be undertaken between titleholders and relevant persons ensuring accurate and relevant information is provided and that any feedback provided is received and addressed openly.
Transparency The consultation process adopted, individuals being consulted, details of the activity and any points of interest or controversy should wherever possible, be made open and transparent. A productive consultation process will establish agreed information and feedback processes.
Collaboration An effective consultation process will have mutually beneficial outcomes to both relevant persons and the titleholder. By approaching consultation as a collaborative process, appropriate outcomes are achieved.
Inclusiveness Titleholders should recognise, understand and involve relevant persons early and throughout the lifespan of the activity.
Integrity The manner in which consultation is undertaken should foster respect and trust. This should be evident from the consultation report included in the environment plan.
By applying these principles, and approaching consultation proactively and as an ongoing mechanism for addressing the impacts and risks associated with petroleum activities, titleholders will be able to fulfill their obligation to afford procedural fairness to relevant persons and ultimately gain stakeholder confidence that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be acceptable.
NOPSEMA has published a guideline that provides further detail on our interpretation of the consultation requirements for an environment plan as specified in the Environment Regulations. As part of NOPSEMA’s Stakeholder Engagement and Transparency work program, further guidance is being developed to clarify the regulator’s expectations for undertaking appropriate consultation and how to handle situations where the objections or claims of relevant persons remain unresolved.
Public comment on offshore project proposals
Offshore project proposals (OPP) are subject to a minimum 4-week period of public comment as part of the assessment process, providing transparency and an opportunity for interested members of the public to comment on the project. Longer periods of comment may apply with the time-frame decided by NOPSEMA and advertised at the time that public comment commences. Proponents of an OPP must consider the public comments received, make modifications to their project if required and submit a final copy of the proposal to NOPSEMA for assessment.
Further information on OPP assessment process and providing public comment is provided on the OPP page.