Still a challenge to provide sufficient information
In 2022, providing sufficient information again proved to be a challenge.
Recommendations on scoping
In 35 of the 36 submitted scoping reports, the NCEA recommended expanding the research agenda. We found that the research agenda was insufficient to capture all the essential information on aspects such as alternatives, nature, health, climate and energy.
The NCEA concluded that only 6 of the 48 environmental assessment reports it reviewed contained all the information needed to properly consider environmental concerns. Unfortunately, 42 environmental assessments were missing information essential for decision-making. When the NCEA notices information is missing, the competent authority is invited to supplement the environmental assessment report. In 2022, 17 of the 42 environmental assessment reports were subsequently supplemented. After reviewing this supplementary information we concluded that 8 of the 17 reports contained sufficient information for careful decision-making.
These figures are comparable to those in previous years. We'd like to reverse this trend, because more than 35 years of EA practice has shown that a good environmental assessment (one containing the right information) contributes to a smooth process, involved parties, transparent decisionmaking and thus to a sustainable investment.
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for environmental strategies
In the run-up to the coming into force of the Environment and Planning Act on 1 January 2024, the NCEA is increasingly advising on environmental assessment for environmental strategies. Since the drafting of environmental strategies is fairly new to provinces and municipalities, the NCEA believes it is important to spend time, in addition to advising, on transferring knowledge about what constitutes a good SEA for an environmental strategy.
Here too, however, it is proving harder than expected to see the results reflected in practice: in all 9 advisory reviews issued by the NCEA in 2022, the NCEA discovered that some relevant information was missing. The missing information mainly concerned ambitions and goals, justification of the plan, alternatives to be studied and information underlying the impact description.
Involve citizens and interested parties, give attention to viewpoints
In a good environmental assessment, the participation of citizens and stakeholders often proves to be crucial, not only to gain their support, but also to obtain as yet unknown information that is relevant for the plan or project in question. The law therefore provides for interested parties to submit their views. The substantive and procedural response to these is the task of the competent authority, which also decides whether to make the views available to the NCEA so that the NCEA can refer to them in its advisory report.
In practice, the competent authority does forward the views, especially during the process of preparing the environmental assessment. In 2022, in almost 80% of the scoping advisory reports the NCEA was asked to take the views into account when drafting its recommendations. It made little difference whether the competent authority was a municipality, the national government or a water board.
The NCEA was asked to include the views in just over half of the environmental assessment reports it was requested to review. Views were made available by the national government in 4 out of the 5 cases, provinces and municipalities did so in just over half of their cases, and a water board asked for the views to be included once.
Natura 2000 is the world's largest coordinated network of protected areas (mainly breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species) across all 27 EU countries. The environmental assessment determines whether a plan or project has significant effects on Natura 2000 areas. If necessary, a so-called appropriate assessment must be made, which looks more closely at the impact on Natura 2000 areas. In 2022, 25 environmental assessment reports were accompanied by appropriate assessments, Despite this, over half of these reports lacked a proper elaboration of the impacts on Natura 2000. In two other environmental assessment reports, an appropriate assessment was missing, even though, according to the NCEA, one should have been made.