Meet the Experts – Jeremy Mitchell

Thursday, 9 May, 2024

Jm June 2023

In this Meet the Experts, we dive into the fascinating world of environmental impact assessment with approachable expert Jeremy Mitchell. Jeremy conducts rigorous evaluations of development proposals to ensure compliance with environmental legislation while managing our office in Perth, WA. From his deep-rooted environmental consciousness to his surprising double life as an actor, there's much to uncover about Jeremy’s journey and passion for making a difference!

1. How do you explain what you do for work at parties?

I conduct environmental impact assessments on a range of development proposals for a range of different clients to support approval under state and national environmental legislation; and also manage the ELA WA operations.

2. Why did you choose to work in the environmental space?

I developed a strong environmental consciousness and connection to country growing up, through my parents, family and ancestral ties.  I had an environmental education throughout my 20s by way of a number of varied experiences including revegetation, plantation forestry, permaculture, farm planning and conservation and landscaping before heading to uni to improve myself in related disciplines, leading me to environmental consulting.

3. What do you love most about what you do?

Being with the team and the camaraderie they provide – we’re lucky to have a great bunch of people, I think the environmental sciences and related disciplines attracts kindred spirits of a particularly lovely sort that facilitates this.

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                                                   Jeremy and his kids enjoying the WA sunshine.

4. What achievement are you most proud of?

 At ELA, undertaking an in-depth appraisal of the ‘Social Surroundings’ environmental factor as defined in WA as part of environmental impact assessments (EIA), for some large resource proposals.  This process involved broadening the scope of significant values needing to be assessed beyond those typically appraised, to do better justice to the potentially impacted Aboriginal social, cultural and heritage values.  We undertook a literature review of relevant laws, guidance and requirements from selected jurisdictions around the world to inform and elevate the approach taken in the EIAs and supporting management plans - to be something that I believe sets an improved benchmark for the state, if not beyond.  The consultation process for this, largely undertaken by the proponent with the traditional owners, but strongly informed by and integrated with our work throughout, has been to my knowledge a more lengthy, detailed and collaborative than typically undertaken. In WA, assessment of Aboriginal social surroundings values for EIA has often been limited to heritage sites and objects, whereas our approach took a more sophisticated and holistic view, and one very much dictated by the affected traditional landowners and knowledge holders.  This includes considering both tangible and intangible values, and explicitly accounts for Aboriginal use and association with Country as it is now - in myriad ways - rather than restricted to a more historical/archaeological lens as can be the case when heritage sites and objects are the primary focus.  

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

By supporting the team, being a sounding board and listening to issues, trying to find solutions, encouraging achievement of professional development goals, helping with decisions and facilitating connections to the wider ELA family.  With projects and client, supporting the team to think of themselves as problem solvers, to help them find solutions, and to be excited, not daunted, by the range of challenges confronting us daily.

6. To share your genius, what’s your one top tip for clients working on approvals projects?

Honour the huge effort that typically goes into pre-approval environmental impact assessment stages of larger projects through lengthy studies, preparation of management plans and other supporting documentation, and the EIA itself, by not being too hasty to accept draft approval conditions from the regulator in the relief of finally getting to the finish line.  Take the time to review, understand and negotiate to seek the right conditions so you’re not stuck with some unworkable, extremely challenging, costly or even dare I say pointless requirements.  In particular, pay attention to time-related conditions and how they relate to commencement of the project. Based on experience from the many compliance assessments I have done, it can be a trap to get caught out in the rush to start the project and end up with a timing-related compliance issue early on the in the project that you’re stuck with for the remainder of the approval period.

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7. What do you love about science?

The rigour of the scientific method.

8. What's the most interesting project you've ever worked on?

At ELA, the Social Surroundings assessment work mentioned above as it involved exploring new aspects of EIA, in contrast to the more familiar and standardised approaches usually required for regular environmental factors such as vegetation and flora and terrestrial fauna. 

9. An interesting or fun fact your team or your clients might not know about you?

I had a double life as an actor over about ten years – consultant by day, thespian by night – putting on indie theatre at Perth’s own Blue Room, Fringe Festival and the like.

10. What do you nerd out over?

Politics and current affairs, as my teammates have regretfully found out when they have ‘got me started’ on a rant.