Customer story: WA Environmental Protection Authority, AU

Permitting And Licensing Process
'screenshot of 'WA Environmental Protection Authority, AU
'screenshot of 'WA Environmental Protection Authority, AU

Reviewing major infrastructure proposals

The Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia (WA EPA) is an independent statutory authority, providing advice to the Minister for Environment of the 2.6million km² state.

One vital area of the EPA's advice-giving is on 'the environmental acceptability of development proposals and statutory planning schemes' – typically mining and industry developments, or large infrastructure projects such as ports, railways and pipelines.

Whenever a new development is likely to have 'a significant environmental effect', it should be referred to the EPA for review. As part of their review process, the EPA then ensures that the public have opportunity to scrutinise and feedback on any proposal – via a formal process called 'Comment on Referrals'.

Modernising outdated systems

Previously, if a member of the public wanted to submit a Comment on Referral, their only option was to send in a response on paper or via email to a general inbox.

Of course, this was far from ideal for respondents, as it raises considerable barriers to access. In a world where people expect to be able to conduct all their interactions quickly and easily online, the process felt slow, clunky and opaque.

Moreover, it piled up a significant extra administrative workload on the WA EPA team: staff members had to laboriously track down individual submissions, collate the various bits of feedback received and then manually enter each of the comments into a spreadsheet, before even being able to pass the information on to assessment officers.

WA EPA wanted to modernise this process, to make it more manageable for the public and staff alike. They chose to standardise and automate their Comment on Referral process, moving it to a fit-for-purpose online system.

WA EPA chose to use Citizen Space

Citizen Space is a digital platform for managing public involvement activity in one place. It's ideal for ongoing or frequently-run processes, such as environmental permitting and licensing – and it was WA EPA's pick for their Comments on Referrals.

By switching to Citizen Space, WA EPA have been able to create a standardised, repeatable method for accepting Comments on Referrals online. The process is now far more efficient, saving staff huge amounts of time.

The simple and clean interface also makes it markedly easier for the public to participate. People can find any and all open Comment on Referrals in the searchable hub, and make a response through a single intuitive form. They receive automatic, instant email confirmation of their submission.

And it has sped up the Authority's review and analysis work, too. Assessment officers are now able to view participation statistics in real-time, with dashboards that update as responses come in. And Citizen Space's built-in analysis tools allow them to generate reports and exports at the click of a button, meaning they can move from the data collection to analysis phase straight away.

‘The simple and clean interface of Citizen Space has helped the agency establish a clear internal cultural standard for online consultations.

Donna Weston, Communications Coordinator, WA EPA

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