WA Govt inks $23m deal for one-stop digital environmental assessments

Environmental Assessment WA Platform Technology

In a bid to slash delays in environmental assessments and approvals, Western Australia’s Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) has partnered with technology company Insight, geospatial consultancy NGIS, and Microsoft to deliver a custom-built digital platform.

Dubbed ‘Environment Online’, the new platform is expected to take three years to develop under a program of work led by Insight; it will be powered by Microsoft technologies, with NGIS providing location intelligence capabilities.

Meanwhile, WA-based geospatial and Microsoft Dynamics specialist firm Maptaskr will integrate NGIS’ geospatial stack with Microsoft Business Solutions by providing Environment Online with critical mapping needs.

When finished, Environment Online will make it easier for developers to conduct environmental assessments and traverse red tape across organisations, government agencies, and industries.

According to WA environment minister Amber-Jade Sanderson, the enhanced “transparency and consistency” offered by the digital solution could reduce the time, by up to 12 months, taken for major projects to navigate joint state and Commonwealth regulatory approval processes.

Insight further held that the creation of Environment Online could save industry-led projects up to $72 million per year, and up to $100 million per year for state government infrastructure projects.

The company has worked with the WA Government on several transformation initiatives to date, including with the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Department of Communities and the Public Sector Commission.

“It’s encouraging to see the intentional shift within state and Federal Government in prioritising projects such as Environment Online as key drivers for a more secure, sustainable, and inclusive digital future,” said Mike Morgan, senior vice president and managing director APAC, Insight.

Phil Barlow, director of partner technology, Microsoft Australia similarly praised DWER’s new tool as a prime example of using digital transformation to streamline operations and accelerate innovation.

“This project sets an important precedent for location intelligence enablement, which will showcase technology innovation to support and accelerate decision making and approvals across the great state of Western Australia,” said Krystle Dobson, senior account executive, NGIS.

The WA Government, meanwhile, hailed the digital tool as a “game-changer”.

In tandem with Environment Online, WA’s McGowan government is also working to establish its data-led Biodiversity Information Office (BIO) initiative, which is intended to complement the aforementioned digital platform.

The BIO is led by the state’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

This Office’s remit is to make biodiversity data more accessible to industry and environmental assessment officers, thereby enhancing their decision-making abilities and making the DWER’s regulatory approval processes more efficient.

Both BIO and Environment Online are Commonwealth-State collaborations, linked under the state’s Digital Environment Assessment Program (DEAP), to promote more efficient information flow.

The projects were both announced in May last year.