The Bioregional Assessment Program was undertaken by the Australian government in order to better understand the potential impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources and water-dependent assets, such as rivers, wetlands and groundwater systems.
The assessments focus on selected areas across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. These states are the four signatory states under the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development. The assessments provide a risk analysis that identifies areas where potential impacts are likely to occur. Just as important, the assessments also identify areas where impacts are unlikely to occur. This allows governments, industry and the community to focus on these areas when making regulatory, water management and planning decisions.
FSDF datasets used: National Topographic Data, National Surface Hydrology, National elevation (SRTM-derived 1 second DEM), Medium scale Imagery (Water Observations from Space), National Catchment Boundaries, Dynamic Land Cover Dataset
Non FSDF Datasets used: National Surface Geology
As an assessment of existing baseline data to characterise water and environmental systems, national scale spatial datasets were an integral part in all aspects of the program. Input datasets had a range of applications, from proximity and contextual awareness using topographic information (road networks, population centres, infrastructure), to environmental and water characterisation (elevation profiles, hydrology, land cover/land use). This information aided in presenting assessments spatially as well as informing scientific analysis.
Strengthening the science underpinning future decisions, the bioregional assessments provided a previously unavailable objective basis for government, communities and industry to consider when debating potential cumulative impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining developments and adaptive management strategies. Australia is the first country in the world to gather and consolidate such a wide range of detailed information to help inform cumulative impact assessments on a whole-of-region scale.
The assessments will inform Commonwealth and state government decisions in approving and regulating coal seam gas and coal mining operations. For example, bioregional assessments are a source of information that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development can use to formulate their advice to the Australian Government on decisions under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and to state government regulators under relevant state legislation. Development proponents can use the information in writing environmental impact statements for coal seam gas and coal mining proposals.
The bioregional assessments will also be used to identify data and knowledge gaps where further information is required before development applications proceed.