The following information provides proponents and decision makers with the appropriate tools to ensure public health is addressed in the early planning stages of any proposal.
The Department of Health is responsible for helping Western Australians maintain and improve their health. However, human health is a shared responsibility among all Western Australians and can be influenced by the activities of any person, government or industry group wishing to develop within the state.
There is potential for developments to have positive and negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of communities. The Department of Health is supportive of activities which provide for consideration of potential impacts during the planning stages of new developments.
Currently the Department of Health provides advice during all planning stages of new developments to decision makers and stakeholders on health related matters. The aim is to add value or improve the health outcomes of proposals.
The decisions on the use of this advice rest with the responsible decision making authorities which include the:
Use of the advice can be to:
Highlight the public health impacts, both positive and negative of the proposal
Assist with recommendations on whether the proposal should proceed
Establish any restrictions or conditions under which the proposal should proceed, and
Support the management regime under which the proposal should proceed.
Major development projects are required to go through formal approvals processes in WA, through a Lead Agency Framework which provides an efficient and coordinated process for development. The Department of Health is a key partner in the approvals process and assists proponents identify and address health issues related to a proposal.
Lead agencies include:
- the Department of Health, for public health emergencies and human epidemics;
- the Department of Mines and Petroleum, for mining and gas extraction;
- the Department f State Development, for major resource and industry infrastructure projects;
- the Department of Planning, for urban and regional land and significant housing developmen; and
- the Department of Transport, for transport projects.
Protection and enhancement of human health are recognised as priorities in Australia. The National Environmental Health Strategy highlights the basic entitlements and responsibilities required to maintain and improve the quality of health for all Australians. Those responsibilities and entitlements operate at the individual, community, business, industry and government level.
In Western Australia, an increased emphasis is on an integrated approach to addressing potential environmental, public health, economic and social issues in activities to meet the needs of both current and future generations.
It is important that the health of communities is not adversely affected by major developments. Project proposals should aim to prevent environmental changes that can have potential adverse effects on the health of present and future generations.
The Environmental Protection Authority advises proponents of major projects to consult with the Department of Health on health related matters linked to environmental changes. Any health related considerations are included in the proponent’s Environmental Impact Assessment.
Public Health Assessments
Public Health Assessments refers to a range of assessment processes, tools and options to assist decision making authorities, including the Department of Health, to understand the public health impacts of a new or existing:
a. New Proposals
It is recommended that new proposals are assessed for potential health impacts using the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) process. Those responsible for these activities can be requested to provide preliminary information during screening and scoping stages of intended procedures and a public health assessment report for review and evaluation.
b. Existing proposals
Concerns may be raised about health issues arising from existing activities. The proponents for these proposals may be requested to undertake a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) on each of the identified health issues. This assessment will be used to determine whether existing controls are adequate and meet appropriate health guidelines.
c. Review of HIA and HRA reports
The reports produced by proponents and referred to the Department of Health for review may be scoping documents or final reports. These are reviewed by health experts who consider the:
Scope of issues considered
Communities potentially impacted by the activity
Identification of risks and benefits of the activity
Management options to address risks
Comments and recommendations are provided to the relevant decision making authority.
To assist proponents, the Department of Health has produced a range of tools and supporting documentation:
It is the proponent’s responsibility to ensure specific public health regulatory approvals, licenses, and other health statutory obligations are obtained.