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Public health still number one priority in new developments

03 July, 2007

The Department of Health is seeking public comment on plans to bring in the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) process that would see new policies and developments assessed for their impact on public health.

Director of Environmental Health Jim Dodds said the discussion paper Health Impact Assessment in WA is available to the public and has been distributed to State and Local government agencies and industry associations who have until September 21 to submit comment.

“The Department believes that the health of a community is an important factor that should be considered in the planning of new policies and development activities and be a part of State and local government decision-making processes,” he said.

“Currently there is no formal assessment process in new developments that considers the health and wellbeing of people unless the decision maker wishes to do so.

“HIAs will help to identify the positive and negative health impacts of an activity during its planning stages which will help decision makers ensure that public health risks are minimised.’’ 

Dodds said the consideration of public health issues during a project’s development would not only benefit the community but could also be incorporated into formal mechanisms to assist State and local governments and developers.

“HIAs could be included in Environmental Impact Assessments, within State and local government land use planning and development processes and within sustainability considerations and assessments,” he said.

“This process does not intend to stop or slow down planning and development, but rather could be used to highlight the health issues in a proposed activity and help find a solution that will protect the health and wellbeing of the community.”

The discussion paper has been developed to provide an overview of HIA and the means by which it can be integrated into current State and local government decision-making processes.

Tasmania is the only state that has specific legislation for HIA through its Environmental and Pollution Control Act.

All other states have started implementing HIA in various forms.