What is a Feasibility Study?
The Feasibility Study outlines the work to be accomplished, sizes the project, identifies any key issues that need to be addressed before a project is undertaken and determines whether the target species can be successfully managed at the project site. It gives an indication of whether the project will be successful, or not.
The Feasibility Study asks three questions:
- Why do the project? Typically an invasive species management project is started within the long-term goals of a restoration project. The benefits of taking action need to be clear from the outset. Specific measurable benefits help evaluate a project against environmental and financial costs. This is critical for building support for the project.
- Can the project be done? To be successful, an invasive species management project must fulfil seven criteria:
- Technically feasible: Will the technique(s) to be used at the project site achieve the desired management option (eradication, long-term control) of the target population(s)?
- Sustainable: Can you prevent re-invasion of the target species and invasions of new species, or keep target populations to the desired level, e.g. zero density, 50% density?
- Socially acceptable: Does the project have full support from the community and other key stakeholders?
- Politically and legally acceptable: Will you be able to secure all required permits and consents?
- Environmentally acceptable: Can you ensure a manageable impact on the environment?
- Capacity: Do you have, or can you acquire, the skilled people, resources and equipment that will be required?
- Affordability: Will you be able to secure the required funding for the life of the project?
- What will the project take? As the seven criteria are assessed, you may identify issues that will need to be addressed before the project can proceed (e.g. What will take the place of any invasive plants removed from a site?). The Feasibility Study will determine the key issues to be resolved.
To answer these three questions you will need to gather all the relevant information, some of which will already be available via documents and authoritative internet sites. However, visiting the project site is an essential part of any Feasibility Study. Being at the site will provide first hand knowledge of the unique characteristics of the site. Such direct experience is vital in an accurate feasibility assessment and the site visit plays a central role in the Feasibility Study Stage.
The Feasibility Study will allow you to assess whether each of the seven criteria can be met. Based on these answers and the work identified to resolve the issues, you will then weigh up the project benefits and costs to make the decision whether the project is feasible or not.
Findings from the Feasibility Study are documented in a Feasibility Study Report that will be part of the project record and used to keep stakeholders informed and as a source of information in later stages.
Why Complete a Feasibility Study?
A Feasibility Study will help determine if the proposed project is practical, especially where:
- there are new project teams
- the implementing agency has limited experience
- several separate invasive species management projects are being planned
- complex projects involving multiple invasive species are planned
A good Feasibility Study will also highlight the issues with any current plan and what needs to be done before the project can be successful.
The benefits of completing a Feasibility Study:
- Increased chances of the project being a success:
To identify the hard parts of the project, such as dependencies in the planning, e.g. trials that need to be done or questions that need to be answered before key decisions on operational design can be made. This will allow time for you to plan for and deal with all of the issues before the project starts and will reduce project risk and the likelihood of surprises later in the project. The Feasibility Study Stage tells you what you need to prepare and plan in the Operational Planning Stage.
- Informed decision making:
- To manage stakeholder expectations about how much the project will cost and how long it will take.
- To ensure that the decision to commit time, money and other resources to the project is based on accurate information.
- To enable adequate resources and timeframes to solve issues.
- Better use of money:
Projects that are too difficult will be stopped early rather than later; before expectations are raised too far, or when more money has been spent. Concluding that a project is not feasible is not
a bad outcome, as it:
- avoids wasting time and money on a project that would later fail.
- enables you to identify what extra work needs to be undertaken to make it feasible.
- Record of what you know about the project:
When writing the Feasibility Study Report you will have gathered significant amounts of valuable information on the project – the objectives, the site, the impacts and what you plan to do. All this information will be used again in the upcoming Stages. All is not lost if a project is not feasible at this point in time,
as it may become feasible in the future as new techniques are developed, or technology or funding become available. The work completed in the Feasibility Study can then be used but it would need to be updated.
- The Feasibility Study Report can be used to support your funding application:
Many funding organisations will fund the Feasibility Study and maybe the Project Design stage separately from the Operational Planning and Implementation Stages. While many funders will require you to complete their own funding application document, your Feasibility Study Report can be used as part of the application.
When to Do?
The Feasibility Study is conducted after you have selected a project in the Project Selection Stage.
Who Should Be Involved?
Feasibility Study Team:
- The Project Manager will take the lead in conducting the Feasibility Study, organising the site visit and completing the Feasibility Study Report.
The Project Manager will form a Feasibility Study team to:
- provide the required skills and knowledge (i.e. knowledge of the technical details of the project, familiarity with the local environment, an understanding of the local community and culture),
- take part in the site visit.
Independent Technical Advisor:
- Stakeholder consultation will continue to play a major part in the project, particularly during the site visit. Engage closely with the local communities as they will be an invaluable source of information for the Feasibility Study.
- An independent technical advisor will be used to provide technical advice and to review the Feasibility Study Report.