Addressing stakeholder concerns on consultation
Article published in the Regulator | Issue 5: 2014
Recently, NOPSEMA met with a number of stakeholders to discuss consultation requirements under the Environment Regulations and address concerns around the consultation processes undertaken by some titleholders in the course of preparing an environment plan.
Over the past year NOPSEMA has received feedback from the community in relation to consultation requirements under the Environment Regulations, specifically claims that titleholders had not:
consulted all relevant persons
provided relevant persons with sufficient information with reasonable time to assess the possible consequences of the activity on their functions, interests or activities
provided feedback to relevant persons that their objections or claims have been understood, considered and appropriately addressed.
To address these concerns, NOPSEMA representatives met with a number of fishing and environmental nongovernment organisations (ENGOs), government agencies and titleholders to:
explain consultation requirements under the Environment Regulations
explain the term ‘relevant person’ and clarify what constitutes ‘appropriate’ consultation
advise third parties about how they can most effectively participate in consultation
clarify how NOPSEMA considers consultation as part of a robust assessment process
increase understanding and knowledge of the tools NOPSEMA has available to monitor and secure compliance.
In the feedback submitted to NOPSEMA, and in the stakeholder meetings, the authority identified a misconception among some stakeholders. The misconception was a perceived lack of transparency in the consultation process under the Environment Regulations when compared with the referral process provided for in the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The Environment Regulations provide a targeted consultation process for relevant persons to engage directly with titleholders during the preparation of an environment plan and provide an opportunity to discuss any objections or claims prior to the environment plan being finalised and submitted to NOPSEMA.
The EPBC Act provides a threshold test to determine whether an activity requires referral and, if it does require referral, the referral document is published on the Department of the Environment’s website. Relevant persons must monitor the website to determine if proposed activities may be of interest. Experience showed that only around 15% of petroleum activities were referred for EPBC assessment.
In comparison, the Environment Regulations require an environment plan to be submitted for all offshore petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters and titleholders must identify and consult with all relevant persons by actively providing them with information that is sufficient for them to determine how the activity may affect their functions, interests or activities.
NOPSEMA is committed to maintaining open, accountable and robust relationships with industry and other stakeholders and will continue to work with stakeholders and titleholders to improve consultation effectiveness.