From Mitigation to Sustainability: the Evolution of Incorporating Environmental Factors into Development Decisions in Australasia

From Mitigation to Sustainability: the Evolution of Incorporating Environmental Factors into Development Decisions in Australasia

B.R. Jenkins

Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management, University of Canterbury and Lincoln University, New Zealand

01 November 2016
| Citation



This paper discusses the evolution of techniques to incorporate environmental factors into development decisions. The paper initially describes the introduction of environmental impact assessment (EIA) and its role in mitigating adverse environmental effects of projects. It then describes the expansion into project operations with environmental audits, and considering developments in their regional context through site selection and rehabilitation EIA, and state of environment reporting. The next stage of the evolution of techniques that is identified is the introduction of strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) bringing environmental considerations into decision making at an earlier stage in the development process.

However, effects-based legislation from which these instruments were drawn has not stopped the progressive degradation of the environment. This has led to the concept of regional sustainability strategies as a proactive approach to sustainable development rather than the reactive approach of EIA in response to development proposals. The example of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) as a regional sustainability strategy is described. Then, the application of the resources/processes/outcomes/response approach to the sustainability of operational activities in Canterbury is also presented.

The evolution of environmental instruments from mitigation to sustainability is summarized and examples of innovative approaches needed to manage at sustainability limits are identified.


environmental impact assessment, environmental instruments, sustainability limits, sustainability strategies


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