Enhancing the value and validity of EIA: Serious science to protect Australia's Great Barrier Reef

The unique values of Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are under threat from environmental change and the unforeseen, cumulative consequences of coastal development. Development decisions are underpinned by Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) but these are plagued by inconsistent methods and a lack of independent evaluation, leading to perceptions of inadequate scientific rigor. To be credible and effective, EIAs should be subject to independent peer review, the yardstick applied in the normal process of science. Without it, decisions based on EIA are at best contestable and potentially invalid. Peer review should be applied to the whole EIA process from project development to reporting and auditing approval requirements. It should be based on rigorous, standard protocols, and produce standardized and publicly available data. Securing the future of the GBR and other global natural assets requires refocusing EIA so it becomes a tool for strategic environmental protection rather than ad hoc permitting of development.

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