A rapid evaluation method to improve project decision-making associated with natural resources : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Resource Management, Massey University, New Zealand
Today Multiple Criteria Analyses (MCAs) are widely used for project appraisals. In order to include the short and long term consequences that a project can have, most MCA models are built on a project specific basis. In addition, there is a proliferation of projects being put forward for consideration, thus the work of decision makers has become extremely time and resource consuming. The aim of this research is to develop and test an integrated method for project appraisal which can be used by decision makers to evaluate a diverse range of project proposals in a timely and resource efficient manner.
This led to the creation of a generic method that could be applied to all projects in the first instance. The research employed a modified Leopold matrix to create a checklist to be used as an initial tool to select key attributes for inclusion in the decision making analysis. This standardized approach allows decision makers to work with available data in the first instance to avoid excessive time and resource expenditure. MCA forms the basis of this rapid evaluation method (REM), as it can accommodate the integration of heterogeneous criteria that are measured by differing metrics. The explicit expression of preferences for certain decision attributes, a key element in the MCA process, is utilized here and a modified Delphi approach, using independent experts is employed to determine attribute weightings. From these, utility scores are calculated, sensitivity analyses conducted and recommendations made regarding the proposed project. At this point an ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ decision might be made or, alternatively there is a recommendation that a full independent MCA be executed. Taking this approach means that a unique and independent MCA will only be required for some projects. Therefore, this method accelerates the project decision-making process and reduces the overall resources needed for the appraisals.
Three diverse case studies are used to test and refine the REM. One is an energy project situated in New Zealand, another, a proposal for a privately owned abattoir in Chile and the third is a decision between two proposals relevant to the salmon farming industry in Chile. From this research it is clear that the application of the
REM can aggregate complex data into a pragmatic multi-criteria framework, improving the ability of agencies to estimate the trade-off between environmental, economic, and social impacts of a development project. The REM provides a benchmark for managers to determine whether a project should be accepted, rejected or requires more detailed analysis. This method has the potential to significantly reduce the time and cost involved in project evaluation.