Under national environment law - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (
EPBC Act) - the potential for impacts on nationally protected matters must be assessed before a proposed activity or project can proceed. Under the EPBC Act the federal Minister may agree to undertake a strategic assessment on the impacts of actions under a policy, plan or program rather than the specific activities that might arise under the program, plan or policy.
The Tasmanian Government is proposing, as part of its Water Development Strategy, to develop two irrigation schemes to deliver a combined annual total of 47,500ML of water to the southern and northern Midlands regions of the State. The Midlands is recognised, by both the State and federal governments, as having substantial values of national significance.
On 5 February 2010, the Tasmanian and Australian Governments signed an agreement to undertake a strategic assessment of the Water Access Program for the Midlands Water Scheme.
The assessment was subject to jointly agreed terms of reference.
Signed Terms of Reference
Drafts of the Strategic Impact Assessment Report and the Water Access Program Report were released for public comment for a period of five weeks from 30 September 2010 to 4 November 2010. A Supplementary Impact Assessment Report was prepared indicating the outcomes of public consultation and subsequent changes made by the State to the Water Access Program.
Supplementary Impact Assessment Report
On 11 April 2011 the federal Minister for the Environment endorsed the program document Strategic Assessment for the Water Access Program, Midlands Water Scheme, Tasmania - Program Report (2011).
The endorsement allows the Minister to consider giving approval for actions that are taken in accordance with the endorsed program.
Signed endorsement notice on the Commonwealth site
Tasmanian reports associated with the strategic assessment: (Impact Assessment, final Program Report, Supplementary Report)
Commitments for matters of national environmental significance
The Program commits to zero clearance and conversion of Lowland Native Grasslands of Tasmania and no significant impact on Matters of National Environmental Significance covered by the strategic assessment unless other Commonwealth approvals are in place.
Monitoring and Quality Assurance Protocols
On 3 October 2012 the Australian Government approved two protocols in accordance with the Program's requirements:Landscape Monitoring ProtocolQuality Assurance Protocol