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Information guideline for an environmental impact statement

The EIS process

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) is responsible for the administration and delivery of environmental impact statement (EIS) assessments of resource projects under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act). The EIS process assesses the potential environmental impacts of these projects and how they should be avoided, minimised and managed. The EIS also informs subsequent approval decisions under the EP Act and other relevant legislation. The EIS process is triggered for larger-scale resource project proposals that involve a relatively high level of environmental risk. These projects are also important to the economic development in Queensland and typically involve high capital expenditure and the potential to generate substantial regional development and employment.

The purpose of the EIS process for a resource project under the EP Act is:

  • to assess the potential adverse and beneficial environmental, economic and social impacts of a project; as well as the management, monitoring, planning and other measures proposed to minimise any adverse environmental impacts;
  • to consider feasible alternatives for carrying out the project;
  • to provide sufficient information about the project to the proponent, the Commonwealth Government; State Government agencies and the public to allow the project to be assessed on its merits;
  • to facilitate suitable environmental planning for the project;
  • to help EHP decide the environmental performance requirements that should apply to the project (by way of an environmental authority issues under the EP Act) should the project proceed;
  • to provide sufficient information to other Commonwealth and State authorities to help them make informed decisions about the project;
  • to meet any assessment requirements under
    • Commonwealth environmental legislation—for projects deemed to be or include a ‘controlled action’ under that legislation; or
    • a bilateral agreement under that legislation; and
    • to allow Queensland to meet its obligations under any relevant bilateral agreement.

How the EIS process fits with the EHP Regulatory Strategy

The Regulatory Strategy supports EHP’s move to risk-based regulation—ensuring sound environmental outcomes while improving the efficiency of assessment effort for both project proponents and EHP.

Under the Regulatory Strategy, for lower-risk project proposals where a proponent provides adequate information on expected risks and proposed mitigation responses, that information will be accepted ‘at face value’ and standard or model operating conditions will be used in the environmental authority which sets the environmental performance requirements for the resource activities under the EP Act. Where higher risks are associated with a proposed activity—or an aspect of it—a greater level of scrutiny is needed and the use of site-specific conditions may be required.

Resource projects triggering assessment by an EIS under the EP Act attract a higher level of scrutiny because:

  • they are generally larger in scale and involve a relatively high level of environmental risk
  • there are statutory obligations setting out how such projects are to be assessed
  • the EIS process addresses environmental planning and assessment to determine the suitability of and the siting and design requirements for key components of the project – as well as appropriate the appropriate environmental performance requirements address the relevant environmental risks
  • the EIS process commonly replaces the information and notice stages for an environmental authority.

Consistent with the Regulatory Strategy, proponents undertaking project assessment by an EIS are required to submit detailed information about their project, its environmental risks and impacts and the proposed responses to ensure the environment impacts will be acceptable. EHP and partner agencies will then review the adequacy of the proposed EIS before it is released for public comment.

About this guideline

As described above, the EP Act sets the purpose of the EIS process but does not prescribe the specific content requirements for EIS documentation. The EP Act requires that Terms of Reference (TOR), setting out the content requirements of the EIS, must be developed and approved by EHP for each EIS assessment under the EP Act.

In the past, such TOR were developed on a case-by-case basis, based on consideration of an increasingly detailed and prescriptive, draft set of TOR, which over time had become a grab bag of detailed information requests from a suite of State agencies and other stakeholders. In 2013, in order to streamline and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the EIS process, EHP consulted with the resources sector and a range of environmental professionals before issuing revised, streamlined generic draft TOR for resource project EISs under the EP Act. For a copy of the most current generic terms of reference please contact the EIS team at

EIS Guideline to promote efficient and effective planning for resource projects

This EIS information guideline was developed in response to requests from resource industry participants for additional guidance to complement the streamlined TOR for EIS under the EP Act – and to clarify the types of information and level of detail required in an EIS. The guideline is a compilation of relevant technical guidance material, arranged following the subject headings in the generic TOR.  The guideline is intended for use as a companion to the generic TOR and to help EIS project proponents to anticipate and plan the investigative work needed to successfully prepare an EIS under the EP Act.

This guideline is not intended to be a comprehensive ‘how to’ manual for preparing an EIS, whereby the proponent would start at page 1 and work their way through every page in order to complete the perfect EIS. Nor is the guidance contained therein intended to be mandatory, even though it does describe specific regulatory requirements in some places. Rather, the guideline is intended to be of practical assistance in setting out a suite of assessment approaches based on what has been found to be successful for EISs already completed under the EP Act (including for matters of ‘national environmental significance’ for projects found to be or include controlled actions under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999).

How does the guideline address the EIS for my resource project?

While some of the examples and wording in this guideline gives emphasis to the impacts of mining projects, the material provided can be easily adapted for EISs assessing other types of resource projects such as coal seam gas, conventional petroleum, oil shale and underground coal gasification.

This guideline is not intended to replace the knowledge of suitably qualified and experienced practitioners in the efficient and effective completion of EIS documentation. For each project, the proponent will still require an experienced and capable EIS team to consider the statutory requirements for the EIS as set out above, capable of applying the appropriate degree of rigour in addressing each specific aspect of the project, based on the TOR for the project.

It remains the proponent’s responsibility to ensure that the EIS addresses all relevant statutory requirements, and meets the relevant information requirements of the Commonwealth and state regulatory authorities.

EHP support for you and your project

EHP offers pre-lodgement meetings to all prospective applicants seeking direction and advice regarding EIS applications and approvals pathways. These services can be initiated by completing and submitting the form Application for pre-lodgement services—ESR/2015/1664 (formerly EM1125) (Word, 115K)* .

EHP expects that persons considering a proposal that may require an EIS would engage early with their appropriate EIS consultants and work through aspects of their project with EHP to clarify the needs of the EIS.

Continual improvement

This guideline will be progressively updated as experience, feedback and opportunity allows. EHP welcomes constructive feedback on the guidelines – you can provide feedback by email to

EIS specific content

The EIS should be written in plain English that can be easily read and understood by the public.

Unduly technical language should be avoided and any terminology clearly defined. Data should be summarised and presented using maps, tables and/or graphs wherever possible. Maps can be used to illustrate geographical features such as locations of threatened species, habitat types, vegetation communities, wetlands, and the survey area(s). Photographs are particularly important for the illustration of ecological issues, and should be used as much as practicable. Appropriate use of scale, legends and accuracy of information is imperative. It should not be necessary for the reader to have visited the site to understand the impacts and assessment described in the EIS.

Guidance materials, generally arranged in the order that they appear in the generic TOR, have been prepared to assist with preparing the EIS. Where targeted guidance material is not currently prepared the relevant TOR heading has not been addressed in this guideline. The currently available guidance materials include the following:

Critical supporting information

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the following key resources available from the EHP website, designed to assist you in understanding the requirements of the EIS process under the EP Act.

Environmental impact statement process

The environmental impact statement process under the Environmental Protection Act 1994

Generic terms of reference

Generic draft TOR—For a copy of the most current generic terms of reference please contact the EIS team at

EHP’s Regulatory Strategy

EHP's Regulatory Strategy

EIS for resource projects

The EIS plays a critical role in subsequent project approvals. Consequently, if a resource project requiring assessment by EIS is to proceed, it is particularly important that the EIS provide all the information needed to enable the issuing of an environmental authority (EA) for the project under the EP Act

EHP has developed a set of model conditions for resource projects, which should form the basis for draft EA conditions and general environmental protection commitments in an EIS. The EIS should discuss impact mitigation measures in the context of these model conditions. Please ensure that you are familiar with them:

Other

There are issue-specific resources compiled at the end of many of the EIS guideline chapters.

Policies and guidelines include many of the subject-specific policies and guidelines referenced throughout the generic TOR. These may also assist in providing further detail on a range of matters covered here.

Legislative information

Nature Conservation Act 1992

The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NC Act) is the principal legislation that provides for the protection of native flora and fauna (protected wildlife). The NC Act is jointly administered by the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing and EHP.

The NC Act classifies native wildlife (flora and fauna) into different categories of conservation significance in recognition of how threatened they are and what action needs to be taken to protect them.

Appropriate approvals/permits under the NC Act are required prior to clearing of listed threatened plant species or interfering with an animal breeding place, unless the activity is exempt. Information on licences and permits required under Queensland legislation is available here.

Vegetation Management Act 1999

The Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VM Act) is administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM). The VM Act, in conjunction with the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SP Act), regulates the clearing of native vegetation in Queensland unless the clearing is made exempt from the assessment under the SP Act. The VM Act’s objectives include conservation of remnant regional ecosystems, prevention of the loss of biodiversity, maintenance of ecological processes, and conservation of vegetation in areas of high nature conservation value or lands vulnerable to land degradation.

The regulatory provisions of the VM Act do not apply to activities undertaken on mining or petroleum leases, but it is relevant to the flora and fauna assessment to the extent that it provides for classification of regional ecosystems as endangered, vulnerable, or least concern. The VM Act classes are used for determining offset requirements for significant residual impacts to regional ecosystems under provisions of the Environmental Offsets Act 2014. Regional ecosystems are defined as vegetation communities in bioregions that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform and soil. Information on the Queensland Government’s vegetation management framework, including requirements for project activities involving clearing outside of mining and petroleum leases, is available here.

Sustainable Planning Act 2009

The Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SP Act) regulates development in Queensland that is made assessable under the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 (SP Regulation) or the local government planning scheme and is administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning. Development within a mining or petroleum lease (or other resource tenure as stated in the SP Regulation) is exempt from provisions of the SP Act unless it is not associated with the mining or petroleum activity.

Wetlands are triggered for state assessment under the State Development and Assessment Provision –module 11 Protecting Wetlands of High Ecological Significance in Great Barrier Reef Catchments. The assessment criterion seek to ensure that development is planned, designed, constructed and operated so as to not cause harm to the hydrology of wetlands that protect matters of national and state environmental significance.

Information on local government planning scheme requirements relevant to the ecological assessment (off-lease) should be obtained from the local government website. Information on state government requirements is available from the state assessment and referral agency website.

Environmental Protection Act 1994

The Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) regulates environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) as defined by the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 (EP Regulation), including mining and petroleum activities. The object of the EP Act is to protect the environment while allowing for ecologically sustainable development. Proposed ERAs must be assessed against the standard criteria as defined by the EP Act and other requirements defined in the EP Regulation. Importantly, the EP Act provides for varied assessment, and restriction of activities, within ‘environmentally sensitive areas’ defined by the EP Regulation, and that a condition of approval may require an environmental offset in accordance with provisions of the Environmental Offsets Act 2014.

Note that the vegetation management class as defined by the Vegetation Management Regulation 2012 is also relevant to determining offset requirements. Further information is available here.

Lands Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002

The Lands Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002 (LP Act) provides a framework for the control of declared pests. The LP Act operates in conjunction with the Plant Protection Act 1989, which provides for the control and eradication of pest plants, invertebrate animals, fungi, viruses and diseases that are harmful to crop plants in Queensland. Both acts are administered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF). These acts also provide local governments with the legal instrument they need to enforce the management of high-priority weeds and pest animals.

The LP Act requires landowners to take reasonable measures to keep their land free of declared plants and animals. The LP Act defines three classes of declared pest plants and animals. Schedule 2 of the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Regulation 2003 lists the pest species declared in each class:

  • Class 1: A pest that has the potential to become a very serious pest in the future. Landowners must keep their land free of Class 1 (C1) pests.
  • Class 2: A pest that has already spread over substantial areas of Queensland. Its impact is serious and control measures are necessary to prevent further spread of Class 2 (C2) pests into unaffected areas.
  • Class 3: A pest that is commonly found in parts of Queensland. However, its control is not considered necessary unless Class 3 (C3) pests are impacting, or have the potential to impact, on an environmentally significant area.

For further information refer to health, pests, weeds and diseases and biosecurity.

Environmental Offsets Act 2014

The Environmental Offsets Act 2014, Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014 and associated Queensland environmental offsets policy and guidelines provide a framework for defining offset obligations. Offsets may be mandated in conditions of approval for resource projects.

For further information refer to the Queensland environmental offsets framework.

Water Act 2000

The purpose of the Water Act 2000 includes providing a framework for the responsible and productive management of Queensland’s water resources and quarry materials to optimise economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Further information on water use and monitoring is available here.

Fisheries Act 1994

The Fisheries Act 1994 provides for the use, conservation and enhancement of the community’s fisheries resources and fish habitats. The state assesses certain development and other activities against State Development Assessment Provisions (module 5). The fisheries resources code addresses:

  • proposed development for prescribed purposes or where there is a demonstrated right to propose an activity in or adjacent to the Fish Habitat Area (FHA). The code is designed to ensure development is managed to protect fish stocks and to maintain the fish habitat values of all declared FHAs
  • the design and location of waterway barrier works to ensure works are designed and located to protect fish habitats and the connectivity between fish habitats
  • the protection of marine plant communities that are fisheries resources because of their importance in providing food and shelter for fish.

Further information on fisheries habitats is available here.

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Last updated
18 October 2016