Before acreage release
Recognising the multi-use nature of the marine environment, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science consults with Commonwealth, state and territory agencies with direct responsibilities for managing the marine environment in preparation for the annual acreage release.
In order to be informed of the nature of activities occurring, or likely to occur in the proposed area, the department seeks information on the implications of release for those agencies. Consultation includes consideration of factors such as maritime boundaries, environmental and fisheries impacts, defence and communications requirements, maritime safety and native title interests.
Information is collated in the special notices and issued as part of the acreage release package. Information collected may also lead to the inclusion of specific title conditions and/or re-shaping or removal of areas to balance competing interests and/or to avoid unduly protracted, risky or inefficient exploration activity in future.
It should be noted the release of an area does not necessarily mean the area will result in a six year exploration title. If a title is awarded it may be several years before any on-water exploration activities occur. As such, at the point of acreage release, details of the nature, timing and location of future exploration activities are not known. Therefore, the offshore petroleum regime requires consultation with relevant persons throughout the planning and implementation stages of a petroleum activity.
Public consultation on the proposed areas
The department publishes a notification of the proposed areas for the subsequent year’s acreage release through the December edition of the Australian Petroleum News. In addition to this, the department uses its consultation hub to invite comments on the proposed areas. This process aims to increase community awareness of the acreage release process and of the proposed release areas. It also enables persons with a specific interest in an area to provide information that may be of use to potential explorers when applying for the release area or when undertaking exploration activities.
Consultation in the environment plan process
It is an explicit regulatory requirement for titleholders to carry out appropriate consultation with relevant persons before submitting an environment plan for assessment to NOPSEMA.
Titleholders have a responsibility to ensure that relevant persons are identified and provided with sufficient information about the proposed activity. Relevant persons must be given adequate opportunity to evaluate the proposed activity and to convey to the titleholder how it may impact on their functions, interests or activities. The titleholder must then assess and appropriately address any objections and claims raised by relevant persons.
Details of the consultation must be documented in the environment plan submitted to NOPSEMA. This should include copies of written correspondence with relevant persons and the titleholder’s assessment of the merits of any objections or claims made by the relevant person.
The environment plan should also describe arrangements for ongoing consultation with relevant persons throughout the life of a petroleum activity. Where ongoing consultation identifies new or increased environmental impacts or risks then the titleholder has an obligation to submit a revised environment plan to NOPSEMA outlining how these impacts and risks will be managed.
For more information about consultation practices see the Consultation requirements under the OPGGS Environment Regulations 2009 information paper (IP1411) at www.nopsema.gov.au.