Definition of EIA
To ensure that decision makers consider the environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to proceed with a project.
The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as:
“the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.“
EIAs do not require adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather they require decision makers to account for environmental values in their decisions and to justify those decisions in light of detailed environmental studies and public comments on the potential environmental impacts.
EIA is about predicting consequences
• Predict environmental consequences of an activity
• Describe the activity itself
• Describe the context of the activity
• The details of the place where the activity will proceed
• Describe likely effects of the activity
• Include implementation
• Ongoing management
• Whether or not there is an end point to the activity
• Evaluate consequences if the activity goes ahead
• Each consequence needs to be evaluated separately
• Consider alternative methodologies to achieve the objective
• Consider how to minimise effects
• Cumulative effects
• To ensure that decision makers are properly informed about the consequences of a proposed activity
• To support the decision-making process with facts
• To ensure that all environmental consequences are on the table
• Pollution (visual, noise, chemical, sediment…)
• Environmental health and services
Not your job
• To determine how to “avoid, remedy or mitigate” effects
• To assess the costs and benefits of the project
• To take into account social or economic issues
• Unless humans are a part of the affected environment
• To search for compromise solutions
• To develop monitoring protocols
• To identify and comment on alternative approaches that could achieve the same environmental outcomes
• This will come up, but later
Can we evaluate the costs and benefits?
• Probably yes, but fortunately, that is not our job in an EIA
• If we were doing an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) under the Resource Management Act (RMA), then yes, we would do some of this
• In many respects, an EIA is a quick and dirty AEE
• We might be called upon to consider alternative options and social consequences, but that is not part of the EIA
• The EIA is about the consequences of a particular proposal, and is directly linked to that
I want to set up a wind farm in a beautiful (windswept) landscape
• Visual pollution
• Local ecology
• Infrastructure requirements
• For the original build
• For maintenance
• For operations
• Erosion and pollution
• Concrete emplacements
• Effects on local climate
• Effects on local traffic
• Visitation rates (tourism?)
• Natural water systems (runoff)
You have purchased a 100-hectare farm that offers a mix of flat land and some hills, in Hawke’s Bay inland from Wairoa. It is a failed sheep farm due to regular summer droughts when temperatures on the north-facing hillsides can reach 40 degrees C. However, it has a river running along one border that contains reliable summer water flows. You have checked the farming activities in the area, and there is a mix of cropping, horticulture, and grazing to fatten sheep and beef cattle for meat. While there is some local competition for irrigation using water from the river, you believe that surplus supply is available.
The farm includes 20 hectares of partially drained swampland that contains some native forest.
There is no commercial-scale rice farming in New Zealand. Rice is in increased demand due to public concern about gluten in our strongly wheat-based diet, genetic engineering of wheat plants, and use of pesticides on wheat crops. You also believe that new hybrid varieties will grow in the hot summers in Hawke’s Bay, and that global warming is allowing for growing of rice in more southern climates than previously.
Information about rice
Rice is an annual crop. After harvesting, the rice plants are removed
o Perennial crops are only possible in tropical environments
Rice demands water
o However, water tends to be over-used in small-scale farming because it helps to control vermin and weed species. It is possible to grow rice without flooding the fields as is frequently seen in some rice-growing countries.
Rice plants grow from 1-1.8 m tall
Rice is wind pollinated
Rice prefers growing temperatures of 20-35 degrees C
Under optimal growing conditions, you can expect to harvest up to 10 tonnes per hectare
o However, imported rice is cheap, so you will need to grow rice on a fairly large scale.
Growing of rice is labour-intensive, and harvested rice must be dried quickly. However,some harvesting machines are available.
Environmental impacts of rice growing
Rice cultivation on wetland rice fields is thought to be responsible for 1.5% of anthropogenic methane emissions. Rice requires slightly more water to produce than other grains. Rice production uses almost a third of the planet’s fresh water.
Long-term flooding of rice fields cuts the soil off from atmospheric oxygen and causes anaerobic fermentation of organic matter in the soil. Methane production from rice cultivation contributes ~1.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Methane is twenty times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The amount of solar radiation received during 45 days after harvest determines final crop output.
High water vapour content (in humid tropics) favours the spread of fungal and bacterial diseases.
Light wind transports CO2 to the leaf canopy but strong wind cause severe damage and may lead to sterility (due to pollen dehydration, spikelet sterility, and abortive endosperms).
Your EIA will address the following headings
- The local environmental situation
- The effects of water use
- The reasons why the wetland must be used for this development
- The environmental effects of losing the forest
- Disposal of water after irrigation (including contaminated water if there is any)
- Effects on local amenity and community, including iwi