If significant impacts are considered likely, and the action is deemed to be a controlled action, then the referral will proceed to the next stages of the process - environmental assessment and approval.
The proponent may be asked to provide further information about the proposal. The EPBC Act provides for five different levels of assessment:
- assessment on referral information (no further information required)
- assessment on preliminary documentation
- assessment by Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
- assessment by Public Environment Report (PER)
- assessment by public inquiry.
Assessment may also be undertaken in accordance with a relevant bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and a state or territory.
Different types of proposals will require different levels of assessment. For example, a proposal where the impacts are localised, easily predicted or where the impacts have already been adequately assessed under other legislation, is likely to be assessed using referral information or preliminary documentation. A proposal involving a large number of issues and that has attracted wide public interest may require the more detailed assessment approach of a PER, an EIS or a public inquiry. Four of the assessment levels involve a public comment phase and the public inquiry must be conducted in public except so far as the inquiry commission directs otherwise.