Impact assessment, simply defined, is the process of identifying the future consequences of a current or proposed action.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process of analysing and managing intended and unintended consequences of planned developments or other interventions on the environment, including those linked to tourism. It is widely practised in many countries in a wide variety of forms.
In New Zealand, under the Resource Management Act (RMA) framework an EIA is commonly referred to as an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). As the environment is broadly defined in the RMA to include people, communities, culture, heritage and amenity, an AEE can include an assessment of all these aspects of the environment if relevant to the intervention in question.
A full AEE/EIA typically brings together all the various components of technical assessment of effects, often as separate sections in the report, including, for example, ecological, physical, landscape, social, economic, health and other components. An effect (while the word impact is used internationally the word effect is preferred in NZ) is broadly defined to include positive and negative effects, short and long term effects, and cumulative effects. Usually analysis of effects includes an assessment of their likely scale and probability.
AEE are most typically used in the planning stages of a project that has implications for the environment. An application for resource consent requires the applicant to supply an AEE. The council's role is to assess the AEE to ensure it meets the requirements of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
The effects that must be addressed in an AEE are set out in clause 7 of Schedule 4 and as follows:
More information on AEE is available on the Quality Planning Website.
Another large area of impact assessment is economic impact assessments. Decisions makers often wish to understand the wider economic effects of a certain policy or funding decision. The process of quantifying broader economic effects can be complicated. A process to capture these wider economic effects, a special type of analysis – called multiplier analysis – can be used. This traces the impacts of a change in one sector through the various supply chains to determine the overall impacts on regional incomes, employment and GDP.
Other assessment processes can include evaluation of policies or decisions on Social and Cultural outcomes.
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Assessment of Environmental Effects - The RMA Quality Planning Resource
New Zealand Association for Impact Assessment - Website
Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal Journal - link for papers and searching
Climate Change Effects and Impacts Assessment: A Guidance Manual for Local Government in New Zealand
Health Impact Assessment – guide and information
Privacy Impact Assessment – guide and information
Cultural Impact Assessments - information