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May 20, 2020

Online access to biodiversity data to enable better decision making

Premier Mark McGowan and Environment Minister Stephen Dawson announced:

  • Environment Online initiative to be led by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
  • Biodiversity Information Office to be led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

We are delighted at Premier Mark McGowan’s announcement about the initiative to establish Environment Online and a Biodiversity Information Office of Western Australia. Together, they will enhance the timeliness and efficiency of environmental assessment processes and approvals.

For the past 18 months, The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI) led a strong collaboration of senior stakeholders from industry, government and science research in the form of the Digital Environmental Working Group and the Biodiversity Data Sharing Advisory Committee. WABSI also helped drive the development of a business case to establish a Biodiversity Information Office.

Together with the Western Australian Marine Science Institution, WABSI’s efforts have been to enhance the access, aggregation, interpretation and management of biodiversity information collected in Western Australia.

WABSI Chair, Dr Ian Cresswell, said that the Premier’s announcement was to be celebrated.

“It is proof once again, of what can be achieved through an independent, enabling organisation such as WABSI that has the ability to bring together stakeholders, balance diverse interests and lead key, cross sector initiatives to help create a lasting legacy for Western Australia,” Dr Cresswell said.

The collaboration led to a report, Digitally Transforming Environmental Assessment, that recommended more efficient information flows and tools to aid environmental assessment and to support Western Australia’s Environment Online initiative for developing new, shared tools for assessment officers and proponents that would reduce time and cost.

With the Premier’s announcement, Western Australia is now leading the way in innovation and in the creation of new opportunities.

Late last year, Environment Ministers across Australia agreed to progress the digital transformation of environmental assessment, based on the above mentioned report’s recommendations. In addition, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced progression towards a nationally consistent digital environmental assessment and approvals regime, in partnership with Western Australia.

WABSI also led the establishment of the Index of Biodiversity Surveys for Assessments (IBSA), launched in May 2018, in conjunction with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, as a publicly accessible repository that captures and consolidates data from more than 500 biodiversity surveys each year. 

WABSI is focused on creating and leading a culture of shared data and expertise for more confident policy and decision-making, utilising biodiversity data from all available sources.

Once the Biodiversity Information Office is established, the next step for WABSI is to utilise the data collected and look at ways in which a shared analytic framework can be established. This will enable better assessment of the cumulative impact of an action on a region, over time, to lift confidence in decision-making.

Media contact: Preeti Castle, Strategic Engagement Director, preeti.castle@wabsi.org.au

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