Are current effectiveness criteria fit for purpose? Using a controversial strategic assessment as a test case

Jenny Pope (Lead Author), Alan Bond, Carolyn Cameron, Francois Retief, Angus Morrison-Saunders

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The aim of this paper is to test the broader utility of the sustainability assessment effectiveness framework of Bond et al. (2015) by applying it to a controversial strategic assessment case study. The effectiveness framework comprises six dimensions: procedural effectiveness, substantive effectiveness, transactive effectiveness, normative effectiveness, pluralism, and knowledge and learning. It was originally developed to evaluate sustainability assessment at a system-wide level and it has not been previously applied to a specific case study. The analysis was conducted through document review and the first-hand experience of two of the authors who were involved in the case study in different capacities. The case study selected was the strategic assessment of the proposed Browse Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Precinct in Western Australia, which was conducted over the period 2007-2015 under the strategic assessment provisions of both the Western Australian and Australian Commonwealth environmental legislation. The framework provided a useful structure within which this complex case study could be explored, its strengths and weaknesses brought to light, and the interactions between the dimensions highlighted. We also found opportunities for refinement of the framework. As a result of this analysis we propose to replace the final three dimensions of the framework with legitimacy, where a legitimate process is one which all stakeholders agree is fair and which delivers an acceptable outcome for all parties, though we acknowledge the need for further conceptualisation of this dimension. We also suggest that the concept of substantive effectiveness should be expanded to incorporate the unintended consequences of impact assessment. Our research thus makes both a useful addition to the literature already published on the Browse case study, as well as to the literature on impact assessment effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34–44
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Early online date21 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • strategic assessment
  • effectiveness
  • legitimacy
  • Browse LNG Precinct

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