Strategic environmental assessment and the effective practice of EIA in Pacific Island countries
Barr, Craig Alan
Environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been used as a decision aiding tool in Pacific Island countries (PICs) for the better part of 25 years to identify the potential implications of developments. However, its institutionalisation and effective practice have been constrained by factors that are characteristic within non-western, developing countries throughout the world. Strategic environmental assessment (SEA), the assessment of policies, plans and programmes (PPPs), has been promoted aggressively in the international literature, particularly in the last decade, as being able to offer added value to project-level EIA, and integrate sustainability principles into PPP formulation. In this thesis, the status and institutional setting of EIA in two Pacific Island countries was explored to determine if constraints associated with the effective practice of project-level EIA could be alleviated by the application of SEA processes 'upstream' of project level decision making. Samoa and Fiji were selected as case studies as both countries have EIA processes operating which can be regarded as indicative of the status of EIA as it operates across the wider South Pacific region. The two countries' legal, institutional, and procedural systems were investigated in order to reveal potential implementation pitfalls, obstacles and lessons. Key informant interviews were undertaken in order to obtain an operational perspective of EIA and SEA. It was found that despite new environmental legislation that makes EIA a legal requirement for both countries, EIA practice is less then ideal. The research suggests that SEA can assist with overcoming barriers to the more effective practice of project-level EIA. In particular, four key themes where EIA is falling short have been identified as being able to be assisted by the implementation of SEA processes: (i) Identification of potential impacts and cumulative effects. (ii) More efficient use of time and resources at the project-level. (iii) Undertaking SEAs at the sector and spatial level to be used as strategic planning guides. (iv) Incorporating environmental and social issues into national development planning so that potentially undesirable developments are filtered out by the project stage. The effective practice of EIA in PICs is likely to continue to struggle given the institutional constraints and the priorities of economic development planning. Impact assessment tools that encompass multiple tiers of strategic development planning and decision making, such as SEA, are considered beneficial to communities and decision makers striving to balance competing economic, environmental, social and cultural needs.
Advisor: Morgan, Richard
Degree Name: Master of Regional and Resource Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis