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Christmas Island strategic assessment

Christmas Island Community Values Mapping to inform CISA

In February 2022, the Department undertook community values consultation on Christmas Island to inform development of the Christmas Island Strategic Assessment Program. The Department consulted with the community, industry, business and the Shire of Christmas Island about local heritage values, social values, development opportunities, and conservation values. This included consultation on whether listed heritage places were considered important to the community at a local, regional or national level.

This community feedback was used to progress early streamlining measures which will support implementation of the strategic assessment, including the application of WA Heritage laws on Island. Read more information on the new applied Heritage laws.

Christmas Island Strategic Assessment

On 15 February 2019, the Minister for the Environment and the Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories entered into a statutory agreement under section 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999  (EPBC Act). The Strategic Assessment Agreement outlines a commitment to undertake a strategic assessment, to protect and conserve Christmas Island's unique and valuable natural environment while also supporting economic development.

The Christmas Island Strategic Assessment will consider the cumulative social, economic and environmental impacts of proposed development activities that will be put forward in a Plan being developed by the Department. The strategic assessment is a complex undertaking, and covers more than 100 protected matters. This strategic assessment is unique, being the first land-based assessment with a Commonwealth agency as the proponent

The Terms of Reference for the Strategic Assessment, which specify what must be included to assess the impacts of actions under the Plan, were agreed on 4 April 2019. The Terms of Reference take into account public comments and stakeholder consultation on the draft terms of reference, exhibited from 15 February to 29 March 2019.

Additional information on the Christmas Island Strategic Assessment and the strategic assessment process can be found on the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment's website.

What is a Strategic Assessment?

Strategic assessments are landscape scale assessments and, unlike project-by-project assessments which look at individual actions, can consider a much broader set of actions or development activities over a much larger scale and timeframe.

A strategic assessment provides an approval pathway under Part 10 of the EPBC Act for actions that are likely to have an impact on nationally protected matters. Under the EPBC Act, the Environment Minister can approve actions or classes of action that have been considered through a strategic assessment and are described in a policy, plan or program.

Advantages of undertaking strategic assessments include greater certainty to local communities and investors, capacity to achieve better environmental outcomes and reduction of administrative burden for proponents, including government.

What will the Christmas Island Strategic Assessment do?

Christmas Island is environmentally significant and home to rare and endangered flora and fauna, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world. The significance and ecological value of Christmas Island has even been recognised internationally.

The Strategic Assessment is an important initiative that will benefit the community, stakeholders and businesses. While protecting the local environment, it will provide certainty to developers, help to reduce barriers to economic diversification, promote economic activity and diversity, and ensure clarity around environmental approval arrangements under the EPBC Act for the next 30 years.

The Environment Minister endorsing the Plan and approving the associated actions will reduce or remove the need for, and cost of, individual environmental assessments under the EPBC Act. This will reduce regulatory burden and increase certainty for businesses, the community and government.

Potential development activities that will be facilitated through the Plan may include (but are not limited to) residential, commercial, tourism, industrial, mining, agriculture, and supporting infrastructure. The Department will ensure the impacts of the actions taken under the Plan are managed through commitments to avoid, mitigate and offset the environmental impacts where necessary.

The Strategic Assessment will not capture actions within the Christmas Island National Park and any proposed development in the National Park will need to meet the requirements of the Christmas Island National Park Management Plan.

The Strategic Assessment will not affect any existing approvals made under the EPBC Act.

What does a "Strategic Assessment" look like?

All strategic assessments involve the development of a policy, plan or program by the person responsible for its adoption or implementation, and the preparation of a report that addresses the relevant impacts on matters protected under the EPBC Act, for consideration by the Environment Minister.

The Strategic Assessment of Christmas Island will produce two key documents:

  • A Sustainable Development Plan (the Plan) will outline permitted development activities, environmental outcomes and commitments for nationally protected matters, as well as the implementation and governance arrangement that will give effect to the Plan. The Sustainable Development Plan will incorporate a land-use map which will provide certainty on the location of permitted developments under the Plan on Christmas Island.
  • A Strategic Impact Assessment Report (the Report) will assess the impacts on nationally protected matters from proposed development activities outlined in the Plan, and the effectiveness of proposed conservation and environmental protection measures.

If the Environment Minister approves actions under the Plan, the approval will specify what is approved and any conditions that apply.

How can I get involved

The Department is committed to engaging with a wide range of stakeholders throughout this process, including the Shire of Christmas Island, PRL, potential developers and environmental non-government organisations such as Birdlife Australia.

The Department held community consultation on Island from 23 February to 1 March 2022 to obtain views on local, regional and national heritage values, social economic and environmental values, and land-use planning. This engagement consisted of one-on-one interviews, focus group workshops, drop-in sessions and pop-up stalls, as well as hard copy and online surveys. The feedback gathered through this consultation process will be used by the Department to inform the Plan and the Department would like to thank all of those that participated in this process.

Once the documents have been prepared by the Department, the draft Plan and the draft Report will be exhibited for a minimum of four weeks in line with the requirements of the EPBC Act and Strategic Assessment Agreement. The public will be invited to view the draft documents and provide feedback via written submissions.

For additional information and enquiries about the Christmas Island Strategic Assessment, please contact: cisa@infrastructure.gov.au

Community Reference Group

The Christmas Island Strategic Assessment Community Reference Group (CRG) is a consultative forum comprising of Christmas Island community members and helps to inform the development of the Christmas Island Strategic Assessment Plan.

The CRG members are appointed by the Assistant Minister for Territories, to provide input to ensure the Strategic Assessment Plan is consistent with community aspirations. The CRG is chaired by the Administrator of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Mrs Natasha Griggs.

The CRG will continue to be a key stakeholder as this program progresses.