Cumulative environmental impacts of development in the Pilbara region

The Pilbara biogeographic region of Western Australia has a wealth of biodiversity and other environmental values, evidenced by its diverse range of terrestrial, aquatic and marine landscapes, numerous flora and fauna species and communities, nationally listed wetlands, and ecological features found only in the Pilbara.

The region is also one of Australia’s development hotspots, of substantial economic importance to both Western Australia and Australia. The region produced more than 27 per cent of Australia’s and 80 per cent of the State’s revenue from minerals and petroleum in 2012. Mining and infrastructure development has been rapid over the past decade, and the pace of development is forecast to continue.

Given the biodiversity values, economic importance, and rate of development in the region, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) believes it is timely to develop and implement strategies to ensure the important values of the region are protected. This advice identifies a range of opportunities to do this.

The key recommendation of this advice is that a whole-of-Government strategic plan for biodiversity conservation in the Pilbara be developed. The EPA believes that, through implementing this and other recommendations in this report, there is a pathway to sustainable development of the Pilbara and for the unique biodiversity and other environmental values of the region to be protected for the long-term.

Other recommendations in this advice relate to the importance of rehabilitation, knowledge sharing, and strategic implementation of offset funds to ensure landscape scale restoration and biodiversity protection.

Without intervention, the EPA is concerned that the increasing cumulative impacts of development and land use in the region will significantly impact on biodiversity and environmental values. We believe the strategies recommended in this advice are practical, timely, and will provide positive outcomes for the Pilbara region as a whole.

August 27, 2014