Abstract: There is increased awareness of the need to balance multiple societal values in land use and development planning. Best practice has promoted the use of landscape-level conservation planning and application of the ‘mitigation hierarchy’, which focuses on avoiding, minimizing or compensating for impacts of development projects. However, environmental impact assessments (EIA) typically focus in a reactive way on single project footprints with an emphasis on environmental values and specifically biodiversity. This separation may miss opportunities to jointly plan for and manage impacts to both environmental and social values. Integrated approaches may have particular benefit in northern Australia, where Indigenous people have native title to as much as 60% of the land area and cultural values are closely linked with natural values. Here, we present a novel framework for integrating biodiversity and cultural values to facilitate use in EIA processes, using the Nyikina Mangala Native Title Determination Area in the Kimberley, Western Australia, as a case study. We demonstrate 1) how social and cultural values can be organized and analyzed spatially to support mitigation planning, 2) how social, cultural, and biodiversity values may reinforce each other to deliver better conservation outcomes and minimize conflict, and 3) how this information, in the hands of Indigenous communities, provides capacity to proactively assess development proposals and negotiate mitigation measures to conserve social, cultural, and biodiversity values following the mitigation hierarchy. Based on values defined through a Healthy Country Planning process, we developed spatial datasets to represent cultural/heritage sites, freshwater features, common native animals and plants represented by biophysical habitat types, and legally-protected threatened and migratory species represented by potential habitat models. Both cultural/heritage sites and threatened species habitat show a strong thematic and spatial link with freshwater features, particularly the Fitzroy River wetlands. We outline some of the challenges and opportunities of this process and its implications for the Northern Australia development agenda.
Heiner, Michael, Hinchley, David, Fitzsimons, James, Weisenberger, Frank, Bergmann, Wayne, McMahon, Tina, Milgin, Joseph, Nardea, Linda, Oakleaf, James, Parriman, Damien, Poelina, Anne, Watson, Harry, Watson, Kimberley, Kiesecker, Joseph, 2019, Moving from reactive to proactive development planning to conserve Indigenous community and biodiversity values, Volume:74, Journal Article, viewed 13 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=13908.