Meet the experts – Dan’s desire to make a positive difference for our environment

Thursday, 4 November, 2021

In his element: Principal Environmental Consultant and Renewables Team Lead Dan Magdi

Our Principal Environmental Consultant and Renewables Team Lead Dan Magdi, based in our Coffs Harbour office, helps clients navigate the complex world of environmental legislation including co-ordinating and facilitating environmental approvals for renewable energy projects. He’s been passionate about the natural world since he was a child and he’s driven by making a positive difference through the conservation of our natural environment.

How do you explain what you do for work at dinner parties?

It’s changed over the years, with my role within ELA progressing over time, from being a graduate undertaking mainly flora and fauna surveys, to now managing large environmental approval projects in NSW for State Significant Developments. Overall, I help clients navigate the complex world of environmental legislation including co-ordinating and facilitating environmental approvals for renewable energy projects.

I always get a good laugh when I explain some of the fauna surveys I have done in the past, especially when I say I have spent weeks surveying for the Cumberland Plain Land Snail. It’s amazing how many people don’t know about the number of threatened species that occur within NSW, and that some snails, butterflies, and moths are included as threatened species!

Cumberland Plain Land Snail (credit:

Why did you choose to work in the environmental space?

I grew up on acreage in north-western Sydney near the Blue Mountains and Wollemi National Parks. I loved the outdoors and the natural geology and ecology of the region fascinated me. I have always had a passion for the environment and excelled in geography at school, so it was just an easy decision to study environmental science at university. I wanted to be able to influence decisions that have a positive effect for both the client and the environment.

How do you make a difference in your role with ELA?

Having been with ELA for 15 years, I have worked to hundreds of projects across the country. I try to share my experience as much as I can with colleagues within ELA and clients. My knowledge of the environmental planning legalisation within NSW and further afield helps me to guide colleagues and clients through the complexity of the approvals process. 

What is the best life advice you’ve ever received?

If you don’t succeed, step back, have a broader look, develop some logical solutions and try and try again.

What are the types of projects you’ve been involved in?

I’ve been extensively involved with preparing linear infrastructure impact assessments (such as power lines) and undertaking a variety of renewable energy and resource related projects, including environmental impact assessment, offsetting assessment and landscape management plans (approved projects in excess of 300,000 homes). During my time with ELA, I have managed projects for a variety of sectors (urban development, mining and infrastructure) within NSW. I regularly provide technical advice and quality assurance for renewable infrastructure related work within NSW and further afield in other states, including Queensland. 

I've been involved with numerous renewable energy projects in NSW, including solar (approximately 340 MW of approved projects including the Metz Solar Farm, Sapphire Solar Farm, Stringybark Solar Farm and Olive Grove Solar Farm, and 1,500 MW of new solar farm projects currently going through the environmental approval process), wind (approximately 550 MW of approved projects including the Crudine Ridge Wind Farm and Uungula Wind Farm, and 1,600 MW of new wind farm projects currently going through the environmental approval process), pumped hydro and hydrogen (Western Sydney Green Gas Project).

To share your genius, what’s your one top tip for clients working on complex environmental projects? 

The best tip I can give to clients in the current climate is to undertake a lot of preliminary work to identify environmental and social constraints within a potential project area and start an interactive planning approach to a project. By doing this, you can identify all the environmental and social risks and concerns upfront, which will help them through the environmental approvals process.

What type of projects do you find most interesting to work on? 

Renewable energy projects – Renewable energy is key for our generation to make a difference for the future. Based upon the last IPCC Report released in August 2021, there is a rapidly growing need for change and for everyone to play their part in trying to implement change to reduce emissions. Renewable energy is one key change that is needed, whether it be wind, solar, thermal, pumped-hydro or hydrogen, more projects need to be invested in and completed to see this change occur. 

I was lucky enough to visit Alaska in 2019 and see firsthand some of the massive implications that climate change is having on some of the most pristine environments in the world. Standing on one of the largest non-polar icefields and thinking that one day this might all be gone was a sobering moment. With melting occurring at unprecedented rates and even closer to home the bushfires in NSW during 2019 and some other extreme weather events occur more recently, I think more needs to be done in developing renewable energy. 

Given the large scale of renewable energy projects and ever evolving technology, these projects are always interesting to work on. We are ‘leading with science’ and always engaging with clients, stakeholders and government agencies. It’s very rewarding when you get to sit down with a client, map in hand of all the constraints within a study area and go through a detailed process of planning and problem solving to try and not only get the best outcome for the client, but also for the environment. 

Favourite animal?

It’s got to be the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo – these beauties have always been my favourite, even as a little kid. When growing up, I always used to see them feeding on Allocasuarina, and they fascinated me. I was once told an old farmer’s tale, when they squawk, rain is coming and the number of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo’s flying low indicates the number of days of rain predicted - interesting!

Yellow-tailed black cockatoo (credit: Wikipedia)

What achievement are you most proud of?

It is very hard to pick, during my time with ELA I have worked on so many great projects, with so many great colleagues and we have achieved amazing outcomes. More recently, I think the achievements I am proudest of are helping to secure environmental approvals for a number of renewable energy projects in NSW, including the Ungula Wind Farm in central-west NSW and the Western Sydney Green Gas Project.

Then there is passing down my knowledge and experience to colleagues within ELA and building strong relationships with clients to not only gain the best outcomes for the clients, but also the environment as well. I’d say some of the best outcomes come from solving problems or negotiating complex issues are some of my best achievements.

Got a project that needs environmental approvals expertise?

Contact: Dan Magdi 

Principal Environmental Consultant T +61 2 9259 3757

Out in the Field: An image from the field, working on the Burrendong Wind Farm project