Last Updated: July 24, 2017

Law Reform

EDO Qld undertakes law reform activities aimed at improving Queensland’s environmental and planning legislation.

EDO Qld does not support, promote or oppose any particular political party or candidate.

Support the Ban on Plastic Bags and Container Refund Scheme, submissions due by Monday 3 July

29 June 2017

The Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill 2017 is open for comment to the parliamentary inquiry until Monday, 3 July.

This Bill seeks to implement the following progressive initiatives by the Queensland Government:

  • the ban on lightweight plastic shopping bag;
  • a container refund scheme; and
  • improvements to the management of end of waste resources through amendments to End of Waste Codes.

 

We recommend you send a short submission in to the parliamentary committee to demonstrate your support for this important Bill.

This Bill is a significant step towards improving regulation of waste and environmental protection in Queensland, by helping to address the increasing issues we face from plastic bags, containers and other waste items.

You might also like to add recommendations to improve the strength of the proposed frameworks, such as to include a staged ban on heavy-weight plastic bags. Heavy-weight plastic bags take significant resources to produce and form a part of our plastic problem; introducing a staged ban now will allow industry and the community to adapt to the ban with certainty and to be sensitive to the use and impacts of all plastic bags.

 

Submissions should be sent to:

Email:   aec@parliament.qld.gov.au

Post:    Committee Secretary

Agriculture and Environment Committee

Parliament House

George Street

Brisbane Qld 4000

To ensure your submission is considered by the Committee, make sure you include:

  • The author’s name and signature
  • If the submission is made on behalf of an organisation, the level of approval (e.g. a local branch, executive committee or national organisation)
  • Mailing address (and email if available), and daytime telephone number.

Guidelines and Rules for making local planning schemes – out for comment until May 9

4 May 2017

The draft Minister’s Guidelines and Rules (MGR) are open for your feedback until 5pm Tuesday 9 May.

See more information here, along with a copy of the draft MGR.

This is a statutory instrument which provides the rules for how local governments can draft local planning schemes, as well as the rules and process for making amendments to local planning instruments. The final MGR will replace the current ‘Statutory guideline 01/16: Making and amending local planning instruments’.  Guidance material and factsheets have also been provided by the Department to assist in reviewing the draft MGR (available here).

Local planning schemes are important documents in dictating the location and form of development allowed in your area, as well as how that development should be assessed. They also dictate when you will be allowed to have a say on development proposed, e.g. whether the development type is code assessable (no public consultation or appeal rights); or impact assessable (public consultation and appeal rights apply).

EDO Qld often hears concerns from the community as to the ease with which local planning schemes can be amended by local government. Amendments to a planning scheme can be frustrating for the community, who trust that the final planning scheme published is the final version, particularly after they have provided meaningful input into the drafting of the scheme. Changes to the planning scheme which allow unforeseen development can have significant impacts on the overall planning proposed for a region.

Changes are allowed to planning schemes, but they must go through the processes under the Planning Act and as outlined in the draft MGR. Therefore, these guidelines and rules are important and need to be well drafted to ensure that significant amendments always go through sufficient public consultation.

Things to be aware of – these guidelines help decide whether and how you will be able to comment on planning scheme amendments:

  • The process for making or amending a planning scheme can now be tailored to each circumstance, and will be defined under a notice from the chief executive of the Department. The factors the chief executive must consider when defining what the tailored process will be are provided for in chapter 1 of the MGR.
  • The Planning Act 2016 provides certain factors that must be provided for in the notice as to the process required for making or amending the planning scheme in section 20, including minimum periods for public consultation for new (40 business days) or amended (20 business days) planning schemes. These periods cannot be altered by the MGR.
  • Planning Act s20 empowers the MGR to provide for a different process for amending a planning scheme; under which the guidelines define the process for:
    • Administrative amendments (no public consultation);
    • Minor amendments (no public consultation);
    • Major amendments (20 business days public consultation required); and
    • New: Qualified state interest amendments (20 business days public consultation required) –  a new process for amendments that are considered more than a minor amendment, but not sufficiently complicated to be considered a major amendment due to their relatively low risk from a state interest perspective. The process for these amendments is not as onerous as for major amendments.
  • Check out the definitions for the above forms of amendment in schedule 1 of the draft Guidelines. These definitions determine whether an amendment will be publically notified or not – do you think these definitions are appropriate? Include your suggestions in your submission.
  • If you think new or amended planning schemes should be notified in a certain way or to particular parts of the community – include your suggestions in your submission.
  • NB: reference to ‘days’ always refers to ‘business days’ in the guidelines – see definitions in schedule 8.

How to make a submission

Only properly made submission under the Planning Act 2016 will be accepted.

A properly made submission must:

  • be made to the Planning Minister
  • be received on or before Tuesday 9 May 2017
  • be in writing and, unless the submission is made electronically, is signed by each person who made the submission
  • state the name and residential or business address of each person who made the submission
  • state the grounds of the submission and the facts and circumstances relied on in.

DILGP have provided a word template to assist formatting of submissions.

Properly made submissions can be provided through the following methods:

  • completing the online form
  • emailing your submission (including your full name and email address) to bestplanning@dilgp.qld.gov.au
  • post your submission to:
    Minister’s Guidelines and Rules feedback
    Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
    PO Box 15009
    CITY EAST QLD 4002

Review of national climate change policy open for comment – subs due 5 May 2017

27 April 2017

The federal government is currently undertaking a review of its climate change policies via a Discussion Paper, open for consultation until 5 May 2017.

This review is intended to ensure federal climate change policies are effective in achieving Australia’s national target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and Paris Agreement commitments.

Terms of reference for the review are at Appendix A of the Discussion Paper.

It is imperative that the federal government implements much stronger leadership in climate change policy for Australia. Under current policies alone we will not meet the targets of the Paris Agreement which we have ratified.

The federal government has been stymying the efforts of states around Australia who have attempted to take action to address climate change. The renewable energy targets and emissions reduction targets of some states now exceed those proposed by the federal government. Rather than encouraging these laudable efforts, these states are frequently criticised by the federal government. Yet the federal government has given no indication that they will provide the necessary centralized leadership to sufficiently reduce Australia’s emissions to avoid dangerous climate change.

We encourage you to get your voices heard by putting in a submission to this consultation period encouraging stronger federal climate action.

The 2016 Climate Institute report, A National Agenda for Climate Action, provides some helpful points to inspire your submissions, including these suggestions for improvements to national climate change policy (paraphrased):

  1. Set a credible pathway to net zero emissions well before 2050 – reduce emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2025, and 65 per cent by 2030.
  2. Ensure investor, business and community confidence in clean energy:
    1. remove explicit and implicit subsidies that encourage emitting activities;
    2. provide economic and community strategies to steadily replace coal fired power stations by 2035 and minimise impacts on vulnerable people and communities;
    3. establish policies which lead to 50 per cent of national electricity generation being from clean energy by 2050, and a clear, long-term carbon price signal or penalty for sustained decarbonisation; and
    4. integrate climate and energy policy and allow improved market responses to new zero carbon technologies.
  3. Integrate climate costs and opportunities into mainstream decision-making.

The Discussion Paper is open for public consultation until 5pm, 5 May 2017.

View the Discussion Paper here: (PDF – 540.35 KB) | (DOCX – 4.97 MB) ​

How to make a submission:

  • Electronic submissions (in Microsoft Word .doc or .docx) are preferred by the Department.
  • Send your submission to:

Climate Change Policies Review – Discussion Paper submissions
2017 Review Branch
Department of the Environment and Energy

Email: climatechangereview@environment.gov.au

By post: (however must arrive by 5 May)

Climate Change Policies Review – Discussion Paper submissions
2017 Review Branch
Department of the Environment and Energy
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

Great Artesian Basin draft Water Plan instruments – out for comment until 17 April

4 April 2017

The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) is a significant source of water for more than 80 regional Queensland towns, along with countless ecosystems, springs, and sacred Indigenous cultural heritage sites. Seventy percent of the GAB exists in Queensland’s jurisdiction; we therefore have a duty to ensure that our management of this important resource is of the highest calibre.

A water plan establishes the requirements which apply to the allocation and management of water throughout the plan area. The current  Water Resource (Great Artesian Basin) Plan 2006 expires on 1 September 2017, and is therefore being replaced by the new water plan, once finalised.

Right now, public comments are being sought on three draft Great Artesian Basin water management instruments:

A map is also available of the proposed new plan area for the GAB here and supporting documents, which include a number of factsheets, hydrogeological assessments and reviews and reports.

We recommend interested readers start with the Statement of intent, which provides a plain English version of the above documents, how these instruments were developed, the intent of the new provisions and how they differ from the current arrangements. A form is also included in the Statement of Intent from page 45 to guide submissions.

We note the following*:

  • Terms such as ‘Management Areas’ and ‘Management Units’ are to be replaced with ‘Groundwater Units’ and ‘Groundwater Sub-Areas’.
  • The current 25 Management Areas and 95 Management Units are to be replaced with 16 Groundwater Units and 39 Groundwater Sub-areas. These Groundwater Units and Groundwater Sub-Areas are spatially much larger than the previous Management Areas and Management Units.
  • There is no mention of protection or monitoring of water quality provided in the plan. Petroleum and gas activities, such as coal seam gas and deep gas fracking activities, risk contamination of GAB water – these impacts must be monitored and sought to be avoided. What is the point of a water plan if it does not protect both the quantity and quality of the water resource?
  • More attention is needed on requirements to monitor impacts to the GAB under the new plan. One significant gap in the plan is the lack of reference to the monitoring and reporting of GAB water taken by the petroleum, gas and mining industry as ‘associated’ groundwater under their statutory rights. While the Department assures us verbally that water taken under the statutory right is taken into account in the plan, this is not a requirement under the legislation or Plan instruments, and is not undertaken in a transparent, accountable manner and therefore risks jeopardising the reliability and effectiveness of the plan. If the Plan does not take into account all water impacts to the GAB, it may become inaccurate and therefore risk the rights of other water users and the sustainability of GAB dependent ecosystems and cultural heritage sites.
  • A new initiative has been introduced to encourage the capping and piping of the many uncontrolled GAB bores, whereby landholders can apply for a licence for a certain percentage of the volume of water saved if they cap or pipe an uncontrolled bore. This is a good initiative in helping to reduce the significant levels of GAB water lost through uncontrolled bores, however it must be enforced closely by the Department to ensure it is effective in actually reducing the amount of water taken from the GAB from these uncontrolled bores.

*Thank you to Tom Crothers, Stellar Advisory Services, who assisted in our review of the draft GAB instruments.

Submissions must be made to the Chief Executive and received by 5pm, Monday 17 April 2017.

Submissions must be sent to one of the following:

Post:

Chief Executive
Attention: Diana Ly
Department of Natural Resources and Mines
PO Box 15216
City East QLD 4002

EmailwrpGreatArtesianBasin@dnrm.qld.gov.au
Online: www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au

Interim Koala Expert Report released – not sufficient protection for koalas yet

4 April 2017

On 10 March 2017, the Koala Expert Panel provided their Interim Report.

The Koala Expert Panel was set up in late 2015 by Minister Miles through the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection with the purpose of providing ‘expert advice on the most appropriate and realistic actions to reverse the decline in koala population sizes and ensure the long-term persistence of koala populations in the wild within south east Queensland’.

The creation of the Panel was spurred by the findings by the Uniquest report ‘South East Queensland Koala Population Study’ which demonstrated significant declines in koala populations in the Koala Coast area (80%) and Pine Rivers (54%) between 1996 and 2014.

The Koala Expert Panel consists of the following people:

  • Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes from the University of Queensland
  • Dr Alistair Melzer from the Central Queensland University’s Koala Research Centre
  • Mr Al Mucci, Director, Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation.
  • Ms Antra Hood, Partner, Minter Ellison.

Outcomes of the Interim Report

The Interim Report is intended to identify the key issues which have been threatening koala populations, including mapping and monitoring, planning laws, strategic policy settings and the management of threats. Failures are reported in the following areas:

  1. ‘Overarching policy and management issues include: lack of a strategic regional vision; an over-reliance on the planning regulation as the sole solution; inadequate resources for management of existing threats and recovery.
  2. Planning issues include: existing planning and vegetation management legislation is only capable, at best, of slowing habitat loss and impacts on koala populations; the complexity of the regulatory framework; inability of the legislation to address cumulative impacts; the SPRP being too limited in scope; and problematic implementation of the offsets framework.
  3. Mapping, monitoring and research issues include: existing habitat mapping is inadequate and inconsistent; monitoring and evaluation is inadequate; there is lack of understanding of the distribution and dynamics of rural koala populations and their habitat.
  4. Governance issues include: inadequate coordination; limited acknowledgment of variation in institutional arrangements and koala conservation needs across SEQ; regulation, education and extension has failed to modify community and institutional behaviour’ (Interim Report p4);

The Expert Panel were first tasked with reviewing and reporting on a number of immediate actions development by the Queensland Government before the Panel was established, being:

  • a habitat mapping project with the aim of improving koala habitat mapping in SEQ;
  • a revised ongoing monitoring program; and
  • the creation of two koala precincts in SEQ.

The Interim Report provides the recommendations of the Panel, which broadly support these initiatives, however making additional recommendations. One recommendation includes the creation of Koala Conservation Landscapes at a landscape scale (e.g. thousands of hectares) that include legislative protections and direct reduction of threats, rather than koala ‘precincts’, which are considered smaller areas less able to ensure the long term persistence of the koala in South East Queensland.

More work needed by the Expert Panel for this process to be fruitful

EDO Qld is concerned that the process being undertaken by the government is not sufficiently strong to bring about strong protections for our koala populations. For example, a moratorium on the clearing of koala populations in South East Queensland would assist in ensuring what little koala habitat that remains is protected while the Expert Panel and the Department finalise their work, particularly in improving the mapping.

The work of the Expert Panel is regrettably not occurring at a pace such that it can feed usefully into the current planning reform process, including particularly the draft State Planning Policy, draft State Development Assessment Provisions and draft South East Queensland Regional Plan. The Panel acknowledges in the Interim Report that the timing of their work does not coincide with the public consultation already undertaken for the new draft State Planning Policy and draft South East Queensland Regional Plan.  The Report states that the Panel has focused their comments on the planning framework that is already in place; stating ‘broader comments about the suitability of this [new planning] framework will therefore form part of the Panel’s final report, rather than being contained within the specific comments on the existing SEQRP and the SPP frameworks that will be provided in February 2017.

Also, as the report acknowledges but does not yet address, the failings of the environmental offsets framework must be addressed by the Expert Panel through clear recommendations for the strengthening in the reliability and transparency from assessment to outcomes of offsets allowed through this framework. Much of our environment and planning assessment and approval system in Queensland now relies on the functioning of the environmental offsets framework, which includes the ability to offset impacts to koalas. This framework therefore must be greatly improved to ensure beneficial results for koalas.

The final report is due by 30 June 2017.

Reef draft water quality regulations open for comment until 7 April

4 April 2017

Get your comments in by 21 April on improving regulation of Great Barrier Reef water quality impacts

Submissions on the discussion paper: Enhancing regulations to ensure clean water for a healthy Great Barrier Reef and a prosperous Queensland will now close on Friday 21 April 2017. Discussion paper is available here.

EDO Qld has been assisting with the review of the regulation of Great Barrier Reef water quality impacts, namely from agricultural activities but also urban development and other intensive land uses in Queensland.

This review is being undertaken by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection as a result of the recommendation from the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce to ‘implement staged and targeted regulations’ which improve on the current regulation of Reef water quality impacts.

Also, these regulations are aimed at achieving the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan 2013 water quality targets:

  • At least a 50 per cent reduction in anthropogenic end-of catchment dissolved inorganic nitrogen loads in priority areas by 2018.
  • At least a 20 per cent reduction in anthropogenic end-of catchment loads of sediment and particulate nutrients in priority areas by 2018.
  • Both based on comparisons with the 2009 baseline.

Existing regulation of fertiliser and pesticide use and sedimentation occurring from sugarcane farms and grazing properties in Reef catchments has not been sufficient to curb the negative impacts of these activities on Reef water quality. These impacts are having serious long-term effects on the reef health and decreases its resilience to pressures such as climate change and ocean acidification.

The most recent 2015  Great Barrier Reef Report Card demonstrates that so far actions have not been sufficiently fast and widespread enough to ensure we meet the reef water quality targets essential for maintaining the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

The discussion paper details the ways the Queensland Government proposes to broaden and enhance its existing reef protection regulations with a focus on stopping the most polluting practices from land-based activities in upstream Reef catchments. Suggestions in the discussion paper include:

  • Setting or improving existing minimum practice standards targeting nutrient and sediment pollution for all key industries in all reef catchments;
  • Setting pollution load limits for each reef catchment to target responses for managing risks to water quality; and
  • Providing a framework for water quality offsets to be used to counter residual nutrient or sediment pollution from new agricultural, urban and other intensive land uses

The final recommendations from the review are expected to go to government by late 2017, with implementation of the new regulations expected in 2018.

EDO Qld commends the Queensland Government for taking action to reduce water quality impacts. The regulatory changes proposed in the discussion paper are a start, however we are concerned that the process risks being too slow, and that the targets implemented by the government will not be sufficient to truly ensure the health of our Reef into the future. We have had enforcement powers in the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld), chapter 4A, dedicated to the regulation of Reef water quality impacts since 2009, however to our knowledge these powers have never been utilised by the Department. The targets recommended in the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce must be implemented and enforcement action must be taken from now by the Department.

More information can be found here.

Senate Inquiry into rehabilitation of mining and resource projects – submissions due 10 April

3 April 2017

Get your submission in to the Senate Inquiry which will be considering the rehabilitation of mining and resources projects as it relates to Commonwealth responsibilities, for example under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

More information can be found here.

The terms of reference for the Inquiry are:

  1. the cost of outstanding rehabilitation obligations of currently operating projects;
  2. the adequacy of existing regulatory, policy and institutional arrangements to ensure adequate and timely rehabilitation;
  3. the adequacy and transparency of financial mechanisms, including assurances, bonds and funds, to ensure that mining and resources projects are rehabilitated without placing a burden on public finances;
  4. the effectiveness of current Australian rehabilitation practices in safeguarding human health and repairing and avoiding environmental damage;
  5. the effectiveness of existing abandoned mines programs, with regard to repairing environmental damage and safeguarding human health;
  6. whether any mining or resources companies have engaged in conduct designed to avoid fulfilling their rehabilitation obligations;
  7. the potential social, economic and environmental impacts, including on matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act, of inadequate rehabilitation;
  8. the potential social, economic and environmental benefits of adequate rehabilitation, including job opportunities in communities affected by job losses in the mining and resources sectors;
  9. international examples of effective rehabilitation policy and practice;
  10. proposals for reform of rehabilitation of mining and resources projects; and
  11. any other related matters.

While the Inquiry relates to Commonwealth responsibility, we encourage you to provide submissions on your experience of the effectiveness of the Queensland rehabilitation regime, as well as the effectiveness of the EPBC Act for rehabilitation as well as generally. These submissions will assist the Committee undertaking the Inquiry to understand the problems with the rehabilitation framework as a whole and how it has been operating in Queensland, along with the effectiveness or issues with the EPBC Act as a means of regulating rehabilitation.

Information on how to make a submission to a Senate Inquiry is available here.

Get your submissions in by 3 March to have your views heard on the draft SEQ Regional Plan – ‘ShapingSEQ’

24 February 2017

The draft South East Queensland (SEQ) Regional Plan has been released and is open for comment until midnight on Friday 3 March 2017. You can find a copy of the draft plan, along with supporting information here, and information from EDO Qld below.

Download our template to help supercharge your submission!

Thank you to all of those who participated in our workshop and LawJam last Thursday night, we were very pleased with the level of engaged participation at both events.

Access the recording of our info seminar here.
(Please note you will have to log in to the site to view the video).

A big thanks to SEQ Catchments Members Association Inc for hosting the community workshop, and to Professor Darryl Low Choy of Griffith University and Mr Paul McDonald of Healthy Waterways and Catchments for joining with us to provide these events and for their contributions on the evening.

The slides from our workshop and LawJam can be found here:

Background

The SEQ Regional Plan is an important regional planning tool, which can direct how both the state and local governments undertake planning and development decision-making in SEQ. Regional Plans override planning schemes where there is inconsistency.

As part of the package released for consultation, there are numerous background papers which provide more information as to the policies which shaped the new SEQ Regional Plan. We recommend you review these background papers, which are under the following headings:

  • Background paper 1: Grow– considers the preferred pattern of settlement to best manage projected regional growth in SEQ
  • Background paper 2: Prosper– considers the approach to supporting improved economic and employment outcomes for the region
  • Background paper 3: Connect– considers the infrastructure demands and integrating land use and transport planning to improve outcomes in the region
  • Background paper 4: Sustain– considers issues for the protection and management of our natural environment and sustainable social outcomes for our communities
  • Background paper 5:Live – considers ways to improve the quality of design and amenity in our urban areas

The government has collated the preliminary responses to the ‘Shaping SEQ’  community consultations; check out whether your response has been adequately captured, by reviewing the responses here.

You can find the full suite of documents here: http://www.shapingseq.com.au/ShapingSEQ/documents

Key suggestions from EDO Qld:

EDO Qld will be providing an in-depth analysis and suggested submissions on the SEQ Regional Plan, with a view to protecting SEQ’s diverse ecologies and maintaining or improving healthy communities in our region. We will notify supporters via our e-bulletin, so make sure you are subscribed!

  • Stronger protection for the newly identified ‘regional biodiversity values’ – broaden this to include the urban footprint which still contains valuable and vulnerable ecosystems and environmental features;
  • Stronger protection for both ‘regional biodiversity values’ and ‘regional biodiversity corridors’ such that they are protected as matters of state environmental significance, and required to be mapped throughout Queensland regions (this would need to be provided through instruments outside of the SEQ Regoinal Plan)
  • Require mapping and protection of areas that are ideal sites for renewable energy, to avoid conflicting land uses and to support this thriving industry that is essential to helping us meet our climate change commitments.
  • Improvements are needed to ‘Measures that matter’ to ensure that they have specific, measurable outcomes, rather than vague or missing goals, to assist with measuring our progress and identifying where we need to amend our framework to achieve our goals. Also, measures relevant to levels of fragmentation and koalas, and other key biodiversity indicators, would be useful.

Stay tuned for our template submission which will provide more helpful tips to assist you with your submission.

Make sure you have your say!

How to lodge a submission

Submissions must be provided to the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning in writing and include the following information:

  • first and last names
    addresses (home or business)
    • signatures (unless lodged electronically).

You may lodge your submission in several ways.

  • Online, here
    By email, to SEQRegionalPlan@dilgp.qld.gov.au
    • By post, to Draft South East Queensland Regional Plan Review Feedback, Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, PO Box 15009, City East QLD 4000.

Win for transparency: all environmental authorities are to be published online from DEHP, but more to be done

17 February 2017

EDO Qld commends Minister Miles for undertaking to provide copies of all environmental authorities online from today, Friday 17 February 2017.

Environmental authorities are required to be made available to the public through the public register under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EP Act).

CEO of EDO Queensland, Jo-Anne Bragg, praised this initiative, stating that this is a necessary step towards helping Queensland move into the 21st century in meeting community expectations that information should be provided online, making it free and easily accessible to the majority of the community.

“However, this should just be the first step in improving transparency and accountability in the decision making and regulation around environmental and community impacts in Queensland.

“Our government agencies have a duty to proactively provide information to the community. Matters of environmental interest affect all Queenslanders, and it is important that interested members of the public and advocates of environmental issues have ready access to public documentation such as EAs and enforcement tools, such as Environmental Protection Orders, online.

“This information is necessary for organisations such as the Environmental Defenders Office, whose lawyers are routinely called upon by the community to provide legal advice on environmental matters. The community needs to know if industry is complying with conditions protecting air, water and nature.

“There is also the fact that environmental approvals and compliance actions need to be undertaken in a transparent manner. This is a good start to put EAs on line, to be followed by Environmental Protection Orders.

The next needed step is to put online all public register documents, such as plans required to be submitted under the conditions of Environmental Authorities, plans of operations for mines, monitoring data, application documents and enforcement documents. Having these documents online will also save the Department and the community time and resources,” Ms Bragg said.

“Improvements to the public register under the EP Act are also needed, to ensure the community can access all monitoring data that is created to determine compliance with a condition of an environmental authority condition. Frequently conditions are being drafted in a way that prevents monitoring data created by industries from being obtained by the community, because it is not required to be given to the government.”

“The public has a right to know the quality of the air they are breathing and the water they are drinking, and the impacts to the environment that concerns them.

“We hope the Queensland Government continues this trend of working to improve transparency through ensuring increased, easier access to information relevant to proposed or existing impacts to the environment and communities.”

The media release from Minister Miles is here.

Stronger State planning needed to protect renewables and agricultural land

9 February 2017

Comment by EDO Qld Solicitor Revel Pointon

EDO Qld supports the need for the Queensland Government to take a strong, strategic approach to planning for the growth of our renewable energy sector, and to protect our vulnerable ecological areas and prime agricultural land.

Currently the Queensland Government is seeking comment on the State Planning Policy, State Development Assessment Provisions and the new draft Planning Regulation. These documents set out what the Queensland Government considers to be the most important matters in Queensland which require protection by the State Government in planning decision making. Submissions are due Friday 10 February 2017.

EDO Qld are disappointed to see that the current versions of these draft instruments out for comment do not provide sufficient protections for the renewable energy sector to develop smoothly and in a way that is compatible with other planning demands on our State.

A requirement to identify and protect renewable energy projects should be provided, so that prime sites for renewables that do not affect prime agricultural land nor our vulnerable environmental matters are protected from incompatible development.

The State Planning Policy currently requires strong planning and protections for ‘key resource areas’ which include coal and petroleum and gas resources, along with other extractive resources. Why aren’t similarly strong planning requirements and protections being afforded to our expanding, clean, renewable energy industry?

The assessment of renewable energy projects still lies with local governments, whereas our Planning Regulation could make the State government responsible for assessment of these projects to ensure proper assessment against other matters of State significance, such as environmental and agricultural matters and coherent planning across the State.

With the support of the funding received from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding and the Queensland Government’s renewable energy target, the large-scale renewable energy sector is likely to grow quickly in Queensland in the coming years.

We need strong planning laws which reflect the importance of the renewable energy industry to meeting our climate change commitments and transitioning our state to clean energy that is better for our air, water and health.

We encourage all Queenslanders to get their submissions in by Friday to ensure that the matters they think should be given the strongest and most coherent protection across Queensland are reflected in State planning policy and law.

Planning instruments open for comment until 10 February. Free seminars!

28 November 2016

Updated versions of the Planning Regulation, State Planning Policy and State Development Assessment Provisions have been released and are open for public comment until 10 February. Read more…

To make sure you have everything you need to make an informed and meaningful submission, the Environmental Defenders Office Qld is partnering with the Queensland Government to put on four free community seminars in South East Queensland

BRISBANE, 24 JANUARY

SUNSHINE COAST, 25 JANUARY

GOLD COAST, 30 JANUARY

TOOWOOMBA, 1 FEBRUARY

These seminars are an opportunity to access:

  • first-hand information and explanations from a Department of Planning representative
  • the analysis of a leading independent community legal centre

on these important instruments and what they mean for the environment and community. Each seminar will include a dedicated slot for audience questions.

And if you’re in South East Queensland (SEQ), don’t forget that the SEQ Regional Plan is also currently open for public comment – find out more here.

Related topics

Planning: have your say on Development Assessment Rules, by 19 December (20/11/2016)

Draft SEQ Regional Plan released. Have your say by 3 March 2017 (25/10/2106)

Video presentations from Qld Planning Laws – Reforms in Review & What’s To Come (31/08/2016)

Planning Bills passed, don’t strengthen environment protection for koalas and other critters (12/05/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on supporting instruments by 5 February (02/06/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on proposed legislation by 18 January (13/01/2016)

Qld planning reforms: supporting instruments – seminars (05/01/2016)

Planning reforms poised to enter third stage (09/11/2015)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on draft framework by 23 October (21/10/2016)

Special extra LawJam on proposed planning framework (19/10/2016)

Planning: speaker presentations from community seminar (30/09/2016)

New planning framework: much more work to be done, for community rights and for the environment(20/09/2016)

Have your say on planning reform, using our submission template (24/07/2016)

Here’s why community participation in planning is vital to protecting your environment (07/07/2016)

Have your say on the future of planning in Queensland! (25/06/2016)

Queensland, planning for changes to planning (19/06/2016)

Planning: have your say on Development Assessment Rules, by 19 December

28 November 2016

The Development Assessment (DA) rules (available here) are open for comment until 19 December, and we encourage you to have your say!

These rules are an important instrument in the Queensland planning framework as they provide for:

  • how public notification must be undertaken for impact-assessable development
  • the ability to change and the process for changing a development application
  • when applications must be re-notified

How to make a submission

You can have your say on the DA rules, by making a submission in one of the following ways:

Development Assessment Rules feedback
Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
PO Box 15009
CITY EAST QLD 4002

Any person may make a written submission about any aspect of the draft rules. The submission must be a properly made submission under the Act to be accepted.

Make sure your submission has the following elements, so that it is accepted:

  • lodged by 5pm, 19 December
  • addressed using one of the details above, to Deputy Premier Trad
  • if via mail, remember to sign it. This isn’t necessary if it’s sent by email.
  • provide your name and a postal address
  • provide your key point and information to support your key points.

Our analysis of the DA rules

There have been some positive amendments made to the rules in this version, compared to the previous draft iteration.

Suggested key points of note include:

  • Support fixed assessment process – so public notification must occur after all information received (Rules s16)

Previously, the Department proposed to introduce a ‘floating assessment process’ where public notification could have occurred prior to all information being provided by the applicant. This draft now brings back the fixed process where the public notification stage can only occur once the information request period has been completed. This provides much more certainty for the community that they will have all information available upon being notified of the application.

  • Support consistent mandatory public notification methods (Rules s17.1)

Previously, the Department proposed to introduce the ability for the assessment manager to choose the notification method for each development, rather than providing mandatory means of undertaking notification as we have now. This draft now brings back mandatory methods of public notification for all impact-assessable applications. This is positive as it provides more certainty to all as to how the community can expect to be notified of development.

We recommend that notification on a local government website and email list should also be a mandatory form of notification in today’s world.

  • Support ability to accept submissions even if not ‘properly made’ (Rules s19.1(b))

The Rules provide that the assessment manager may accept a submission even where that submission does not comply with the requirements of a ‘properly made submission’. This is a positive discretion for the community in that it ensures that the Rules are not overly strict in preventing the allowance of minor or accidental omissions in submissions. This is supported.

  • Remove ability to ‘opt-out’ of providing information – creates distrust and non-collaborative culture (Rules s11.1).

Applicants can now ‘opt out’ of providing information requested by an assessment manager to help them better understand their application. This is an unhelpful feature introduced by the Rules. The planning framework should support a collaborative, open and trusting relationship between assessment managers and applicant. Giving the applicant the ability to say up front that they refuse to provide more information that might be requested of them by the assessment manager does not support this. This applicant power may also prevent the community from accessing information that would otherwise be required to be produced to help them better understand the application. This should be removed.

  • Remove discretion around re-notification – favour consultation (Rules s26.2(a))

The Rules provide the assessment manager with the ability to consider whether a change to an application would have resulted in further submissions. This is an unacceptable discretion as the assessment manager can never be in a position to know without doubt what is of import to the community. This discretion should be replaced with a requirement to re-notify and change that is not minor, regardless of its cause. Consultation leads to better decision making.

Related topics

Planning instruments open for comment until 10 February. Free seminars! (29/11/2016)

Draft SEQ Regional Plan released. Have your say by 3 March 2017 (25/10/2106)

Video presentations from Qld Planning Laws – Reforms in Review & What’s To Come (31/08/2016)

Planning Bills passed, don’t strengthen environment protection for koalas and other critters (12/05/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on supporting instruments by 5 February (02/06/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on proposed legislation by 18 January (13/01/2016)

Qld planning reforms: supporting instruments – seminars (05/01/2016)

Planning reforms poised to enter third stage (09/11/2015)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on draft framework by 23 October (21/10/2016)

Special extra LawJam on proposed planning framework (19/10/2016)

Planning: speaker presentations from community seminar (30/09/2016)

New planning framework: much more work to be done, for community rights and for the environment(20/09/2016)

Have your say on planning reform, using our submission template (24/07/2016)

Here’s why community participation in planning is vital to protecting your environment (07/07/2016)

Have your say on the future of planning in Queensland! (25/06/2016)

Queensland, planning for changes to planning (19/06/2016)

EDO Qld supports Chain of Responsibility Guidelines

23 November 2016

The Chain of Responsibility Guidelines have been released for public comment until 5pm Friday 25 November 2016; click here to have your say!

These guidelines relate to the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016 (Qld). This Act gives the government new tools to hold companies and related parties like former directors to account for environmental harm. So if the company goes into financial difficulty those tools can be used to avoid government and taxpayers picking up the tab for clean-up of contaminated sites, or for rehabilitation.

We encourage you to write to Minister Miles and the DEHP to express your support for the draft statutory guidelines and for their work in helping to protect Queensland taxpayers from financial and environmental risk with the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016.

Send your comments on the draft guideline to DEHP at:

Strategic Compliance
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
SCConsultation@ehp.qld.gov.au

Click here for more information and to view other forms of making comments.
 
Send your congratulations and support to Minister Miles at:

Minister Steven Miles
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
environment@ministerial.qld.gov.au

Water reforms passed – exemption from public scrutiny for Adani and retrospective dewatering approval demonstrate regulatory capture by mining industry

10 November 2016

The Queensland Parliament last night passed both the:

  • Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (EPOLA Bill); and
  • Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (WLA Bill).

The Bills introduce some improvements to the transparency and rigour of water regulation in Queensland and return access to justice for many concerned about groundwater impacts from mines.

However, two last minute amendments are highly concerning as to their impact on proper management of our water resources in Queensland from mining impacts, and suggest regulatory capture:

X   Exemption for Adani from public and Court scrutiny of groundwater impacts of Carmichael coal mine

  • Adani will be required to obtain an associated water licence to dewater their pit for Carmichael coal mine, but a carve-out has been created which would most likely mean Adani’s associated water licence will not be required to be subject to normal public notification, submissions or third party merits appeals applicable to any other water licence.
  • Instead, the Director-General of DNRM will be required to consult with the Director-General of DEHP on whether to approve the associated water licence. The Director-General of DEHP will be directed by Minister Miles to consult with an expert panel in making this decision.

X   Retrospective approval of dewatering activities for many mines in Qld!

  • Retrospective approval was legislated of associated water take and interference which has occurred since 2003. This demonstrates major oversight by DNRM in the regulation of mining water use, and more favours to mining.
  • Minister Lynham states in his second reading speech that ‘an administrative approach was adopted to not issue licences for certain dewatering activities that were considered to have little or no impact on other water users or springs’. This ‘was not lawful’ and consequently ‘a number of existing mining operations have been taking or interfering with associated water for many years without the appropriate water authorisations’.

EDO Qld is seeking an explanation from the government as to how this administrative oversight arose and how the government intends on ensuring the sustainable management of our groundwater in light of this unregulated take or interference by the mining industry. 

Apart from these highly concerning last minute amendments, some improvements in management of water in Queensland were also passed: 

✓   Return of access to justice and proper impact assessment for many affected by proposed mines in Qld, including for New Acland expansion and Alpha coal mine – to make up for introduction of statutory right to associated water and removal of water licence requirement

  • Future mining, petroleum and gas companies will be subject to strengthened assessment of groundwater impacts under their environmental authority assessment;
  • All mining proposals that are currently being assessed which would normally require a water licence for dewatering their pit/s under the law today will still require an associated water licence involving further assessment of groundwater impacts; and
  • Acland mine, Alpha and Kevin’s Corner will be subject to public notification and appeal rights for any associated water licence they require. Carmichael coal mine is the only mine which we are aware will likely be exempt from the public notification and appeal rights which normally apply to a water licence assessment.

 ✓   Return to more responsible management of water use in Qld considering principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD)

  • The principles of ESD will be a required consideration for assessment of water allocation and licensing applications (however not for associated water licences).
  • The water development option was repealed – this would have enabled large-scale water users to receive a guarantee from government of their access to large amounts of water prior to the completion of an assessment of the impacts of that water take;
  • The ability to deregulate the take or interference of water from certain declared watercourses was also repealed.

EDO Qld have worked tirelessly to assist these two Bills in being passed and to try to prevent them from being significantly weakened.

Thank you to all of those supporters who assisted in these efforts by putting the pressure on our parliamentary representatives to protect community rights and the environment in the water reforms. An impressive effort was put in with very little notice which we have no doubt helped get these Bills over the line.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us on adminqld@edoqld.org.au.

See also public statement from EDO Qld CEO Jo Bragg, “Qld Labor exempts Adani mine from public submission and appeals on groundwater.”

Qld Labor exempts Adani mine from public submission and appeals on groundwater

10 November 2016

The Queensland Labor government last night passed the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (EPOLA Bill) and Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (WLA Bill).

“The Queensland Parliament has passed last minute amendments to the Labor Government’s groundwater protection laws. The effect is that the public, be they conservation groups or local landholders, won’t have any submission or appeal rights on groundwater licences relating to the Adani Carmichael mine,” said Jo Bragg, CEO of Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) Queensland.

Adani will still be required to obtain an associated water licence, introduced through the EPOLA Bill. However, an exemption has been explicitly carved out for Adani which removes the public and the Court’s power to undertake normal scrutiny of this licence.

Other mining proposals, such as New Acland Stage 3, Alpha and Kevin’s Corner coal mines will be required to obtain associated water licences that will be subject to normal public submission and appeal rights.

A new provision was also inserted to ensure that the Director-General of the DNRM must consult with the Director-General of DEHP when deciding whether to approve an associated water licence.

Minister Miles stated in his second reading speech that the Director-General of DEHP would be guided by an expert panel in this consideration. This provides a small consolation against the loss of proper public scrutiny of groundwater impacts proposed by the massive Carmichael mine.

“The EPOLA Bill as originally tabled by the State government was intended to improve groundwater assessment and stop Newman-era changes that removed licensing requirements for mines from taking effect,” said Ms Bragg.

“So it’s gravely concerning that on the most controversial proposed coal mine in Australia, the ALP government has now moved amendments which remove the check and balance of public submissions and appeals relating to groundwater impacts.

“It is a myth that the EPOLA Bill would cause unfair delays to miners stemming from its new requirements. For many years mines have needed water licences, subject to public appeal, to utilise groundwater under the Water Act in Queensland.

“What we know for certain around water management is that we do not properly understand how our groundwater basins operate. Rigorous assessment of proposed impacts is essential.

“We are at least gladdened to see that the strengthened groundwater impact assessment for environmental authorities has been passed in EPOLA for future mining, petroleum and gas projects.

“Also, it is good news that the WLA Bill was passed, which reintroduces the principles of ecologically sustainable development into water licence and allocation decision making, removes the risky water development option, and removes the ability to deregulate watercourses.

“It is, however, unfortunate that the government did not consider that associated water licences should also be subject to principles of ESD in their assessment, when they will apply to every other water licence and allocation.

“We have had some small concessions for those farmers, other landholders and the environments dependent on our groundwater systems. The government and those politicians who value protection of agriculture and the environment over private for profit mining companies should not support this last minute amendment in favor of poor, rushed assessment for Adani.”

Contact James Lorenz, 0400 376 021

Water: EDO Qld bust some of the myths surrounding the EPOLA Bill!

7 November 2016

Queensland’s parliament will soon vote on the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (EPOLA Bill) and the Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (WLA Bill).

EDO Qld supports passage of both Bills in at least their current form; these Bills are the bare minimum, our farmers and environment cannot afford for the Bills to be weakened in favour of mining. Our water resources are too precious to waste without proper scrutiny about the likely impacts to farmers and the ecologies dependent on them – we need these Bills to pass.

There’s a lot of fiction purporting to be fact which is circulating in the discussion about the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (EPOLA Bill).

Here, we bust some of the myths!

Myth 1. “We don’t need to examine groundwater any more, it’s been thoroughly assessed.”

Facts: That is wrong. In the Alpha case the Land Court Judgement in 2014 exposed grave uncertainties with groundwater modelling. Land Court member Smith recommended that the project be rejected unless there was further precautionary groundwater licensing assessment. So objectors like grazier Bruce Currie, who worked hard to demonstrate those uncertainties that need addressing, are rightfully expecting that licensing processes needs to occur.

In the Acland Stage 3 case the evidence has been heard in the Land Court. Four of five groundwater experts gave evidence that there were issues with the groundwater modelling that called into question its reliability and New Acland Coal conceded that its groundwater modelling did not, and was not even designed to, predict the extent of the impacts at the objectors’ properties. The many graziers and farmers who objected (EDO represented a group of 60) expect and need groundwater licensing as their businesses are dependent on groundwater – farmers like beef cattle stud farmer Frank Ashman.

Myth 2. “The EPOLA Bill will stop the mine”

Facts: No, it will require those mines already undergoing assessment to obtain an “associated water licence” which includes application, public submission and possibly appeal processes, as for the water licence these mines currently require. This process might lead to modified mining being allowed or improved conditions. It does not automatically stop anything.

Myth 3. “The EPOLA Bill will cause unfair delays with new requirements to get water licences.”

Facts: That is incorrect. For many years continually and up to today most mines have needed water licences to interfere with groundwater under the Water Act in Queensland. The EPOLA Bill just continues that requirement for transitional mines undergoing assessment, like Acland Stage 3, Alpha, Adani Carmichael. What has happened is that mining companies have gambled on the laws weakening and failed to put in their applications for water licences. The mining companies have  chosen to sit on their hands and are now trying to blame everyone but themselves. See Parliamentary Committee Report on page 5.

Myth 4. “Assessment of groundwater impacts of mines is bad for jobs”

Facts: If you take a longer-term view, protecting our agricultural industries and rural communities and our Great Barrier Reef maintains and grows long-term sustainable jobs.

Don’t forget the mining industry has constantly exaggerated jobs in the mining industry, e.g.

  • Adani said 10,000 jobs but only in Court did their own economist say the correct estimate was 1,464 net jobs as the mine would cause job losses in existing industries.
  • New Acland said 2,953 jobs but only in Court in April did their own economist say the correct estimate was 680 net jobs as the mine would cause job losses in existing industries.

Please, contact your local MP and support the need for these two Bills to be passed! Find out more here.

Have your say: groundwater is a resource too precious to waste

7 November 2016

URGENT – ACTION REQUIRED TODAY, OR TOMORROW AT LATEST

Queensland’s parliament will soon vote on the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (EPOLA Bill) and the Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (WLA Bill).

Let your State parliamentarians know that you think that our water resources are too precious to waste without proper scrutiny about the likely impacts to farmers and the ecologies dependent on them – we need groundwater licensing for major mines and community appeal rights to stay in the EPOLA Bill, and for both Bills to pass.

Please urgently contact the following politicians to express your support for the Bill:

Let them know:

1) You support passage of the Bills – both Bills must be passed in at least their current form; these Bills are the bare minimum, our farmers and environment cannot afford for the Bills to be weakened.

2) The EPOLA Bill is essential for improving groundwater impact assessment, and ensuring mines currently being assessed do not fall through the gaps with the statutory right to associated water without a licence set to commence in December, by requiring them to get a transitional ‘associated water licence’.

3) Ideally, the associated water licence should be strengthen so that it is assessed against principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD), such as the precautionary principle, as applies to every other water licence assessment. There is too much uncertainty around how impacts affect our groundwater basins to not assess impacts posed against the principles of ESD.

3) The Bill must ensure that the Coordinator-General cannot use his powers to interfere with the assessment of the new associated water licences introduced through this Bill (nor for any other water licence application for an advanced mining project). This may affect the integrity of the assessment of water impacts through fast tracking approvals without adequate time for assessment. For more information on this – see here.

4) The WLA Bill is essential as it re-introduces the principles of ESD back into the assessment of water licences (but not for associated water licences), removes the guaranteed right to water for large operators prior to full assessment, and removes the ability to deregulate use of a watercourse.

As a matter of principle – no resource company should get free, unlimited access to groundwater, it is risky to the environment and unfair to other water users. So the proposal to create a ‘statutory right to take groundwater’ for mining companies is opposed. A licence should always be required prior to water being taken or interfered with, with public submission and appeal rights to a Court with powers of final determination.

But the government is at least trying to address some impacts of the statutory right to associated water and other risky elements introduced through the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014, to protect landholder rights, our precious groundwater resources and the ecologies dependent on them.

Please contact your local MP and support the need for these two Bills to be passed!

The key reason to vote for these Bills is that Australia is a very dry land and our water, and especially groundwater, is a precious and irreplaceable resource that is essential for so much agricultural production in Queensland. Massive open cut coal mines slice through the earth and put at risk millions of litres of priceless groundwater. Groundwater and other water resources also support fragile ecosystems.

EDO Qld have busted some of the myths being spread about the EPOLA Bill – check it out here!

Qld Renewable Energy Expert Panel’s Draft Report released. Have your say by 2 November!

26 October 2016

 

Have your say on the Qld Renewable Energy Expert Panel’s Draft Report before 2 November.

EDO Qld have provided a template to help you with your submission – available here!

You can amend this template to reflect your concerns and recommendations, and send it to: QLDREPanel.Secretariat@dews.qld.gov.au

 

EDO Qld welcomes the release of the Queensland Renewable Energy Expert Panel’s Draft Report, Credible pathways to a 50% renewable energy target for Queensland (read more).

The report indicates that the target of 50% renewable energy for Queensland by 2030 is achievable and lays out options for how we can get there.

The release of the report is timely, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week that it was significantly increasing its five-year growth forecast for renewables thanks to sharp cost reductions in the industry and strong policy support in key countries. The IEA reports that renewables are now the largest source of installed power capacity in the world, surpassing coal last year (read more).

Looking for further inspiration? Check out the video, audio and presentation slides from our recent Safe Climate, Clean Energy LawJam:

Trevor Berrill, Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant and Educator (YouTube, SoundCloudPDF)

Paul Jones, Managing Director, CSA Services (YouTube, SoundCloudPDF)

Gerald Arends, Director, Pegasus Legal (YouTubeSoundCloudPDF)

Let’s move Queensland forward into a sustainable future, with strong renewable energy targets that keep our climate safe. Get your opinions heard by 2 November!!

Further reading

Renewable Energy Taskforce releases draft report, Qld Govt Media Statement for Minister for Energy The Honourable Mark Bailey, 12 October 2016.

Queensland lays out three “cost neutral” paths to 50% renewables, Reneweconomy, 12 October 2016.

Planning reforms update. Important new instruments opening for comment!

26 October 2016

As we foreshadowed in August, the time has come for the suite of planning supporting instruments to start opening for comment.

These instruments are essential for the operation of the new planning framework under the new Planning Act 2016, which is set to come into effect in mid-2017.

The following supporting instruments are set to open for public comment shortly, being the:

  • State Planning Policy;
  • State Development Assessment Provisions; and
  • Planning Regulation.

We have been informed these will be coming out for comment in the next week. Stay tuned on this page for further updates on this material as it becomes available for review.

Care about community participation in planning? Comment on the Development Assessment Rules!

As of this week the Development Assessment Rules are now open for comment until 19 December. These Rules, available here,  provide for key provisions around how the community is informed of development applications, and the process for how development applications are assessed, including when a development application can be amended and the ramifications of this for community input. So if you care about community participation – these Rules are essential for your consideration.

EDO Qld will be providing our analysis of the Development Assessment Rules in the coming weeks – stay tuned.

At a time we’re seeing major damage caused by the loss of habitats for koalas and other native flora and fauna, it is vital that we all stay engaged through the upcoming consultation periods and put in meaningful submissions to improve these important instruments.

EDO Qld will be providing further analysis of the full suite of planning instruments, which you can use to inform your submissions. Stay tuned to our email bulletins, website and social media!

Background on the recent planning reforms

Draft SEQ Regional Plan released. Have your say by 3 March 2017! (25/10/2016)

Video presentations from Qld Planning Laws – Reforms in Review & What’s To Come (31/08/2016)

Planning Bills passed, don’t strengthen environment protection for koalas and other critters (12/05/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on supporting instruments by 5 February (02/06/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on proposed legislation by 18 January (13/01/2016)

Qld planning reforms: supporting instruments – seminars (05/01/2016)

Planning reforms poised to enter third stage (09/11/2015)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on draft framework by 23 October (21/10/2016)

Special extra LawJam on proposed planning framework (19/10/2016)

Planning: speaker presentations from community seminar (30/09/2016)

New planning framework: much more work to be done, for community rights and for the environment(20/09/2016)

Have your say on planning reform, using our submission template (24/07/2016)

Here’s why community participation in planning is vital to protecting your environment (07/07/2016)

Have your say on the future of planning in Queensland! (25/06/2016)

Queensland, planning for changes to planning (19/06/2016)

Help make sure Qld mines do not get free, unlimited access to groundwater

25 October 2016

Thank you to those who put in submissions on the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016.

Download EDO Qld’s submission template here.

The Parliamentary Committee have now published their Committee Report, available here.

Positively, the Committee recommend that the Bill be passed, which introduces a requirement :

a) for advanced mining projects, like Carmichael and Alpha coal mines, to obtain associated water licences for dewatering their pits; and

b) for stronger assessment of groundwater impacts under the environmental authority assessment process.

Regrettably, they did not recommend that the principles of ESD be required to be considered in the assessment of associated water licences.

But it’s not too late! The parliament must still vote on this Bill.

Let your local State parliamentarian know that you think that our groundwater is too precious to waste without proper scrutiny about impacts to landholders and the ecologies dependent on them – that the associated water licence must be assessed against principles of ESD!

Write or call your local State parliamentarian to let them know:

1) You support passage of the Bill, as recommended by the Parliamentary Committee.

2) The Underground Water Management Bill must require the ‘associated water licence’ to be assessed against principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD), such as the precautionary principle. There is too much uncertainty around how impacts affect our groundwater basins to not assess impacts posed against the principles of ESD.

3) The Bill must ensure that the Coordinator-General cannot use his powers to interfere with the assessment of the new associated water licences introduced through this Bill (nor for any other water licence application for an advanced mining project). This may affect the integrity of the assessment of water impacts through fast tracking approvals without adequate time for assessment. For more information on this – see here.

4) And as a matter of principle – no resource company should get free, unlimited access to groundwater, it is risky to the environment and unfair to other water users. So the proposal to create a ‘statutory right to take groundwater’ for mining companies is opposed. A licence should always be required prior to water being taken or interfered with, with public submission and appeal rights to a Court with powers of final determination.

Background

What is the law around resource water use currently?

Currently most mines are required to obtain a water licence under the Water Act 2000 (Qld) (Water Act) for taking or interfering with groundwater required to be taken or interfered to access the resource (associated’ groundwater), as well as other groundwater and surface water needed for their project.

The current water licence framework is not perfect, but it does provide community submission rights on the water licence application, and the right to appeal the decision to the Land Court for merits review and a final decision by the Court.

Public submission rights and appeal rights to a Court with the powers of final judicial determination are essential to ensure proper scrutiny and quality, informed decision making around environmental and social impacts posed to our water resources.

Further, these water licences are assessed against the principles of ESD, which include concepts of intergenerational equity, and the precautionary principle – that if we do not understand the likely results of the proposed impacts sufficiently, we should not allow the activity to be undertaken.

The ‘precautionary principle’ is an essential element of environmental impact regulation. The effects of groundwater impacts from resource companies are some of the least understood impacts posed by any proponents.

How did the LNP Government seek to change this law?

The LNP Government introduced the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (WROLAA).

WROLAA intended to provide mining companies with a statutory right to take, or interfere with associated groundwater. That is, free groundwater without any licensing process as required under the law today.

This has not yet commenced, it has been on hold while the current government considers what parts of WROLAA it will commence and which are to be repealed.

If the statutory right to associated groundwater is commenced, this would mean that:

–         miners get free, unlimited access to associated water, while other landholders and farmers still have to go through the water licence assessment process;

–         farmers, conservation groups and all those concerned with the impacts to groundwater of mines will lose their right to put in submissions and appeal any decision around the water licence to a Court with final determination.

This law is contrary to the Galilee Alpha coal mine Land Court decision, where the Court recommended refusal of the mine unless the mine obtained necessary water licences under the current law, with consideration of the ‘precautionary principle’.

Under the  LNP’s proposed law, the Alpha mine, along with other large Galilee mines such as Carmichael and Kevin’s Corner, would instead have a statutory right to associated groundwater and would no longer need a water licence, and no community submission or Court appeal rights would therefore exist that are provided through the water licence process under the Water Act.

What is the current government proposing around resource water use?

The current Queensland Government has unfortunately decided to allow mining companies to have a statutory right to associated groundwater. They intend to commence this statutory right by 6 December 2016.

However, the current government has realised that the statutory right, which is already held by the petroleum and gas industry, takes away a level of scrutiny of groundwater impacts posed by resource companies and the legal rights held by those concerned about groundwater impacts of existing projects that already advanced in the assessment process.

In an attempt to address these issues, the government has introduced the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016.

This new Bill proposes to:

–         strengthen the groundwater impact assessment at the EIS stage for an application for an environmental authority, since this will now be the key pre-mining assessment of groundwater impacts posed by a resource project; and

–         introduces a new ‘associated water licence’ which will apply to those mining projects that have already applied for their environmental authority or notified their coordinated project EIS, such as Adani Carmichael and Alpha and which would always have required water licences under the current law.

While the strengthening of the groundwater impact assessment and introduction of an associated water licence are valuable, they do not protect community rights and our environment.

The associated water licence will provide those concerned with the ability to still provide submissions and appeal a decision on the associated water licence – so these people will not have lost the legal rights that they thought they held around the many mines that have been applied for but not yet obtained water licences, like Carmichael and Alpha..

The licence is, however, not assessed against principles of ESD, including the ‘precautionary principle’ –  that if they do not understand the likely results of the proposed impacts sufficiently, they should not allow the activity to be undertaken.

This is therefore a weaker assessment then is currently required for mine related water licences, which must be assessed against principles of ESD.

In fact, for any other operators requiring a water licence under our laws (including our farmers and other businesses), they will still be required to be assessed against the ‘precautionary principle’.

It is very disappointing that the current state government in this Bill is proposing to switch off the application of the ‘precautionary principle’ for the very impacts that require its application most.

Get your submissions in on the Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 by Friday, 7 October, to have your voice heard to protect our groundwater resources!

Download EDO Qld’s submission template here.

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

or by email to: aec@parliament.qld.gov.au

Examples:

How do groundwater impacts by mines get assessed under the current law?

Under the current Water Act, where a mine is in a groundwater regulated area, the mining proponents must obtain a water licence before any take or interference can affect the groundwater basin. All impacts posed by the groundwater take or interference are assessed at this stage, with assessment being undertaken with consideration of the principles of ESD, including the precautionary principle.

The community have the right to put in submissions to the water licence application.

After the government has decided the application, community submitters have the right to apply for internal review and appeal the final decision to the Land Court for merits review. The Land Court here has the power to make a final determination after hearing the concerns and evidence raised before it with respect to the water impacts posed, and decides whether to approve or refuse the application.

These rights are essential, as many farmers, businesses and conservation groups have grave concerns around the impacts of resource industry activities on groundwater basins, particularly with respect to the large coal mines being proposed for the Galilee Basin, such as Carmichael coal mine. Often the decisions around resource projects can be highly politicised, it is therefore essential that the Court has the power of final determination, as an independent arbiter free from politics.

How will the Carmichael mine get assessed under the current government’s planned groundwater laws?

Under the current law, Adani, as the proponent for the Carmichael coal mine, would normally be required to obtain water licences prior to taking or interfering with groundwater, as described above. This would be assessed against principles of ESD.

If the current government’s proposed laws are put into force, Adani, will be required to obtain an ‘associated water licence’ before it can take or interfere with groundwater needed to access the coal on its mining lease.

This ‘associated water licence’ will not be assessed against principles of ESD – therefore the decision makers in government and in the Court are not able to take account of the precautionary principle.

The community will have the right to put in submissions on Adani’s application to take or interfere with associated groundwater. The government will then decide whether to approve or refuse the application.

Those who have put in a submission can then apply for internal review of the decision, and then appeal the decision to the Land Court if they still have concerns.

The Land Court will then consider the communities concerns and the evidence, and will make a final determination as to whether Adani should be granted the water licence or not. This assessment will be under weaker criteria than is currently considered for the existing water licence process.

If the ‘associated water licence’ is granted, Adani will be subject to obligations such as make good obligations under chapter 3 of the Water Act.

How will new mines be assessed under the current government’s planned groundwater laws?

Mines that are applied for after the statutory right to associated groundwater commences will not require a water licence or an ‘associated water licence’.

The likely groundwater impacts from the mine will be assessed under the environmental authority application process, normally involving an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The public will have the right to put in submissions on the EIS for the environmental authority, and to refer their submissions to the Land Court.

The Land Court can consider the concerns raised in the submissions, however it is only empowered to make a recommendation to the final decision maker – the Director General of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. The Director General then decides whether to follow the recommendation of the Land Court. This process takes away one of the fundamental benefits of having an independent arbiter involved in decision making – that the final decision is made free from any possible political influence.

Once the mine has obtained an environmental authority and mining lease, it can access its statutory right to take or interfere with groundwater needed to access the resource.

There are some obligations that the mine will need to comply with to utilise this statutory right. One requirement is to make an Underground Water Impact Report, which is available for public comment, however there are no appeal rights around this Report. The proponent simply lodges this Report with the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and then they can begin taking or interfering with necessary associated groundwater, prior to the report having been approved. There are make good obligations upon the mine as well.

Expediting Land Court process would be a ‘slap in the face’ for community

31 August 2016

Statement from EDO Qld CEO and Solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg:

EDO Qld is deeply concerned a motion that includes a call on the Palaszczuk Government to “prioritise its commitment to Land Court reform to expedite the consideration of resource projects in Queensland” was passed by Queensland Parliament last night (see here).

Previously this government has been fully supportive of community objection rights; in fact, this government has reinstated them after those rights were taken away under the previous government.

The motion passed by the Queensland Parliament last night is a slap in the face to landholders like those in the Land Court right now who are trying to have their concerns properly heard with respect to the Acland Stage 3 Coal expansion project.             

These landholders would be directly affected by this project and have legitimate concerns around the potentially serious impact of this expansion project on their rural businesses and health. The Court has heard a history of inadequate responses by New Acland to over 100 landholders complaints about dust and other problems from the existing mine (see here).

Through the Land Court objection hearing process for Acland Stage 3, serious issues have been debated about the groundwater, noise and air quality impact modelling that show the incompleteness of the  earlier Coordinator-General’s assessment. The case has exposed that once again, like for the Adani Carmichael coal mine (see here), jobs figures have been grossly overstated by a mining company. New Acland’s own economist, Dr Jerome Fahrer agreed in Court the correct jobs figures for the Acland Stage 3 expansion were not 2,953 as stated in the Environmental Impact Statement, but 680 net jobs.

EDO Qld lawyers agree it’s important to improve the Land Court process. The Minister has not yet replied to our recent letter making suggestions for improvement. We are keen to meet with the Attorney-General and Minister Lynham to discuss this matter. We say the Court and parties are doing an extraordinary job on the Acland case to hear complex matters on an accelerated timetable, including sitting late into the night.

For Acland Stage 3, the timeframe of the Land Court objection hearing process needs to be viewed in context of the need to properly assess this coal mine and to make the correct decision on whether or not it should be approved.

The assessment process started in 2007 for Acland Stage 3, and the Coordinator-General’s Report on the EIS was only given in 2014; so it is simply wrong to attribute delay to the Land Court process which only commenced in September 2015 and is proceeding at extraordinary speed for a trial of its size, at a great personal expense to all involved due to the expedited proceedings.

Court hearings provide an opportunity for landholders and other concerned citizens, to have an independent arbiter, free from politics and financial influence, objectively consider the material put forward by the proponent, and the concerns of the community with respect to the project. This includes consideration of whether the project should go ahead at all. This process also exists in the Planning and Environment Court for  different types of development applications.

It is well-recognised that through the rigorous analysis provided in the third party Court process better quality decisions are made around proposed projects, with a higher level of community confidence.

We all should be proud we live in a country whereby we have systems in place to help ensure high quality, robust independent scrutiny of major projects by the Court.

Write to Minister Lynham, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath, and your local Minister to express your concern for this issue – even a short email will do!

You can find a comprehensive list of MPs, including contact details, here.

VIDEO presentations from Qld Planning Laws – Reforms in Review & What’s To Come

31 August 2016

This month EDO Qld, in partnership with Queensland’s Department of Planning, hosted a series of free community seminars across SEQ about new planning legislation.

EDO Qld’s presentations slides and the Department of Planning’s presentation slides are now avalable for download. We have also prepared a guide to basic planning terminology you can download here.

The filmed presentations from our Gold Coast seminar are available below:

James & slides

 

 

Department of Planning presentation

 

 

Revel & slides

 

 

EDO Qld presentation

 

 

(To watch these videos, you will need to register. If you have questions prompted by the videos, click on the speech bubble at the bottom of the screen to send your questions to the Department)

What’s next?

The State planning instruments, including the State Planning Policy, State Development Assessment Provisions and Planning Regulation, as well as the SEQ Regional Plan, will be open for public consultation from October 2016. The Development Assessment Rules and Ministers Guidelines and Rules will also be open for comment, most likely prior to the end of 2016.

If you have any questions, you can contact your local state government planning officer (details here). You can also send your questions through to EDO Qld at edoqld@edoqld.org.au or by phoning (07)3211 4466.

Background

You might recall that Parliament passed the Planning Bills back in May 2016? At the time, EDO Qld pointed out that while the amended Planning Bills showed some improvements to public participation, transparency and accountability, overall they did not strengthen environmental protection. Read more…

The new Planning Acts will come into effect in mid-2017, but the statutory supporting instruments underpinning the new framework are yet to be finalised. The supporting instruments provide essential content that directs how well community participation and environmental protections are provided for.

At a time we’re seeing major damage caused by the loss of habitats for koalas and other native flora and fauna, it is vital that we all stay engaged through the upcoming consultation periods and put in meaningful submissions to improve these important instruments.

EDO Qld will be providing information to explain the documents and to support your submissions once the instruments have been released for comment. Stay tuned to our email bulletins, website and social media!

Advancing climate action in Qld: Have your say before 02 September 2016

26 August 2016

Download EDO Qld’s full submission template here or use the short submission template.

Have your say on the Queensland Government discussion paper: ‘Advancing Climate Action in Queensland: Making the transition to a low carbon future’

Send your submission to climatechange@ehp.qld.gov.au, before 11.59pm, 02 September 2016. 

Need assistance with your submission?

Download EDO Qld’s full submission template (here) or use the short version (here).

Don’t forget to replace the highlighted sections with your own details and add as your own opinions and examples to support them – the more individualised your submission the better!

You can also view our final submission (here), as well as the submission prepared by Trevor Berrill, Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant, for Sustainable Queensland (here).

Take your submission one step further!

Make sure you also send your submissions to your local MPs (find a comprehensive list of MPs, including contact details, here), as well as all of the Ministers who are responsible for implementing the actions you want on climate change:

– Mark Bailey, Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply –  energyandwatersupply@ministerial.qld.gov.au

– Anthony Lynham, Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines – sdnrm@ministerial.qld.gov.au

– Jackie Trad, Deputy Premier, Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning  – deputy.premier@ministerial.qld.gov.au

– Leeanne Enoch, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy  – innovation@ministerial.qld.gov.au

– Curtis Pitt, Treasurer – treasurer@ministerial.qld.gov.au

– Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier – thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au

Seek inspiration from our recent community seminar

Check out the video, audio and presentation slides from our LawJam: ‘Safe Climate, Clean Energy: How can we move to renewable energy powering Qld?’:

– Trevor Berrill, Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant and Educator (YouTube, SoundCloudPDF)(Sustainable Queensland submission)

– Paul Jones, Managing Director, CSA Services (YouTube, SoundCloudPDF)

– Gerald Arends, Director, Pegasus Legal (YouTubeSoundCloudPDF)

Take the survey

You can even comment via the online survey at www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au.

Planning: Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast seminars

22 July 2016

On 11 May this year, the Queensland Parliament passed the Government’s suite of Planning Bills (read more).

The Department of Planning is currently reviewing key planning instruments, including the State Planning Policy and the Planning Regulation.

You can find out more at these free community seminars, designed to explain how our planning instruments operate with each other and sit within the planning framework, the new reforms that have taken place and those coming up in 2016, and what these reforms mean for the community and the environment.

Monday 15 August, Gold Coast. This event is being livestreamed to allow people across Queensland to participate and ask questions.

Monday 22 August, Toowoomba.

Tuesday 23 August, Brisbane.

Tuesday 30 August, Sunshine Coast.

Each seminar will be a conversation between

• The Department of Planning, providing an outline of the new planning legislation and supporting instruments

• The Environmental Defenders Office Qld, talking about what the reforms mean for community and environment

• You! Have you got a burning question about any aspect of our planning framework? If you have an issue you would like to see addressed at these seminars, you can nominate it ahead of time using the comments section on the event pages above.

Background

Planning Bills passed, don’t strengthen environment protection for koalas and other critters (12/05/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on supporting instruments by 5 February (02/06/2016)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on proposed legislation by 18 January (13/01/2016)

Qld planning reforms: supporting instruments – seminars (05/01/2016)

Planning reforms poised to enter third stage (09/11/2015)

Qld planning reforms: have your say on draft framework by 23 October (21/10/2016)

Special extra LawJam on proposed planning framework (19/10/2016)

Planning: speaker presentations from community seminar (30/09/2016)

New planning framework: much more work to be done, for community rights and for the environment (20/09/2016)

Have your say on planning reform, using our submission template (24/07/2016)

Here’s why community participation in planning is vital to protecting your environment (07/07/2016)

Have your say on the future of planning in Queensland! (25/06/2016)

Queensland, planning for changes to planning (19/06/2016)

Qld farmers fear loss of justice if miners can take groundwater without licence

22 July 2016

EDO Qld says time is running out for the Queensland Labor government to stop controversial LNP water reforms that will strip farmers of their right to appeal proposed mine impacts on precious groundwater supplies, risking permanent damage to the state’s water systems (ABC Radio PM, Farmers fear Queensland water reforms, Wednesday 20 July).

With reforms to water laws due to be debated in Queensland parliament as early as next
month, EDO Qld solicitor Revel Pointon said new information provided to Central Queensland grazier Bruce Currie indicates that he and other farmers stand to lose legal rights to challenge grants of groundwater water to mining companies.

“Our office has been approached by farmers concerned about a permanent loss of vital water supply unless the government steps in and scraps the LNP laws to give statutory rights to associated water to mining companies,” Ms Pointon said.

“With amendments to the the Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 expected soon before Parliament the Government has an opportunity to protect our farmers, their objection rights and local ecosystems.

“At present mines need to apply for a water licence and have it approved – as well as have any community objections heard in the Land Court – before the water supply is impacted. This right is at risk of being scrapped.

“New EDO Qld advice to Central Queensland graziers Bruce and Annette Currie indicates these laws will undermine a previous Land Court recommendation in their favour that the Alpha project be refused unless proper water licences were obtained for the mine.

“If the laws go ahead they will also undermine a commitment contained in Alpha’s
Environmental Authority, which also require water licences to be obtained by the miner.

“Now the Curries, and other farmers like them, risk losing their rights to protect their vital water supply.

“Without community objection rights the community will be losing an important check and
balance on decisions that affect precious groundwater resources to the detriment of farmers and ecosystems.

“EDO Qld are currently taking these concerns to relevant Ministers and department staff. We are also talking with landholders and conservation groups, to help them understand how these laws might affect them,” Ms Pointon said.

Background information on water in Queensland

Land clearing Bill essential to protect Reef, wildlife, soils, waterways and climate

4 July 2016

There were almost 700 submissions on the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016! Well done to everyone who made a submission!!

Read EDO Qld’s full submission on the Bill here.

The Bill was referred to the Queensland Parliament’s Agriculture and Environment Committee for inquiry and report on 17 March.

Public Committee hearings were held throughout the state in May and June. EDO Qld’s Law Reform Solicitor Revel Pointon gave evidence at the Brisbane hearing on 3 June.

Read a transcript of the hearing here.

EDO Qld does not support the position of the Queensland Law Society on the vegetation management laws.

Read our statement here.

The committee’s report to the House was tabled on Thursday 30 June. Regrettably, the Committee were not able to reach consensus to support the passing of the Bill.

Read our analysis of the Committee’s report.

Background:

The Queensland Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 is fulfilment of a 2015 election commitment by the Palaszczuk government to reinstate vegetation protection laws weakened under the Newman government. See here for history and background.

This Bill is essential to ensuring the Great Barrier Reef, wildlife, soils, waterways and our climate are protected from the devastating impacts of broadscale clearing.

EDO Qld understands farmers and landholders need to do essential or routine maintenance clearing on their properties. That clearing won’t be restricted by this Bill.

Reinstatement of “reversal of the onus of proof” sounds complicated, but our legal opinion is that this reinstatement is nothing to fear for responsible landholders. This was part of the law for years,  without even one example of a problem, until the Newman changes.

All “reversal of the onus of proof”  means is that, unless proven otherwise,  a landholder is considered responsible for any clearing on their own land. Just like if the car you owned was to run a red light, it would be assumed that you were driving, unless you could show otherwise.

This Bill is important to protect Queensland’s ecosystems and wildlife because it:

  • reinstates the protection of high value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land;
  • removes provisions which permit clearing applications for high value agriculture and irrigated agriculture;
  • broadens protection of riparian vegetation, especially in the Great Barrier Reef catchments of Burnett Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy Great Barrier Reef;
  • reinstates the application of the riverine protection permit framework to the destruction of vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring; and
  • reinstates a broader requirement for environmental offsets to be required for any residual impact, not just ‘significant’ impacts as is currently provided for in offsets legislation (and has led to only 1 offset being registered for vegetation impacts since 2014).

Parliamentary Committee Report on Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 tabled

4 July 2016

The Agriculture and Environment Committee tabled their Report on the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (VMROLA Bill) on Thursday 30 June 2016. Regrettably, the committee were not able to reach consensus to support the passing of the Bill. A number of recommendations were made, extracted at the bottom of this post for ease of reference.

Sadly the majority of the recommendations appear to have been made as a result of unfounded concern expressed during the Committee Hearing process. This includes the recommendation to omit the re-inclusion of the reversal of the onus of proof.

EDO Qld will provide responses to some of the recommendations made by the Committee below:

    –  Reversal of onus of proof

The onus of proof was previously reversed in the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld) (VM Act) prior to 2013, with the reversal relating only to the identity of the person who has undertaken the clearing. Similarly to the operation of speeding cameras and the assumption that it was the owner of the vehicle who was driving at the time, the owner of land is taken to have been the person who cleared the vegetation on their land unless evidence can be provided to prove that it was not the owner of the land. This is necessary to ensure that the Department is able to enforce the vegetation clearing offences, since the owner of the land typically has the most information as to their personal responsibility for clearing, or to prove that it was not them.

The Department has stated that it has suffered difficulty in obtaining sufficient evidence to prove a particular person was responsible for vegetation clearing given the typically isolated locations in which vegetation clearing is undertaken. EDO Qld support the onus of proof as to the identity of the person who cleared the vegetation being reversed for vegetation clearing offences to ensure that the VM Act can be properly enforced by the Department. This is an appropriate divergence from the fundamental legislative principles which is provided for in the principles themselves.

The fundamental legislative principles, which are set out in section 4 of the Legislative Standards Act 1992 (Qld) (LS Act) and explained in the Queensland Legislation Handbook (Handbook), require that the onus of proof in criminal proceedings not be reversed to ensure that the rights of individuals are not unduly infringed upon, unless there is adequate justification. The Handbook expressly states that the reversal of the onus of proof is justified in instances where ‘a matter that is the subject of proof by the defendant is peculiarly within the defendant’s knowledge and that it would be extremely difficult or very expensive for the state to prove’, or ‘the relevant fact must be something inherently impracticable to test by alternative evidentiary means and the defendant would be particularly well positioned to disprove guilt’. The circumstances for which the onus of proof is reversed in the VM Act, as described in the above paragraph, fit exactly with this justification for diverging from the fundamental legislative principles by reversing the onus of proof.

EDO Qld, including solicitors who are members of QLS, does not agree with the views of the Queensland Law Society with respect to the VMROLA Bill. Read more here.

    –  Offsets

EDO Qld fully supports the government’s proposal in the VMROLA Bill to widen the application of offsets to any residual impact, and not simply ‘significant’ residual impacts. Since the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (Qld) (EA Act) was introduced, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has stated that only 1 instance of vegetation clearing was subject to a requirement to offset impacts due to the high threshold currently under the Queensland offsets framework. The removal of the word ‘significant’ from the EA Act ensures that the impacts of vegetation clearing, along with other environmental impacts, will more often require offsetting. EDO Qld does not support the offset framework currently in force, as it has not been demonstrated to provide scientifically viable and quality ‘offsets’ for environmental impacts, and is open to being used simply as justification to allow for impacts. However, it is still better that impacts are required to be offset with some attempt at balancing the environmental impact with another action, than the impact be allowed with no offset at all.

    –  Self-assessable codes being review

Another recommendation relates to the review of the self-assessable codes which are provided for under the VM Act, and which often are responsible for the more significant clearing which has occurred in Queensland since their introduction in 2013. EDO Qld is a key stakeholder in the government’s review of the self-assessable codes, we provided a submission on the independent review of the codes undertaken by Cardno and commissioned by the Department, available here. The government will shortly release a revised thinning code for public consultation, with further revised codes to be released for public comment through the second half of 2016. Stay tuned to EDO Qld’s website and social media for critique of the revised codes.

EDO Qld urges the Queensland Parliament to pass the VMROLA Bill as introduced into parliament, to ensure that Queensland’s vegetation and the animals and ecosystem functions dependent on it are adequately protected.

Recommendations of the Agriculture and Environment Committee Report on the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, tabled 30 June 2016

The committee was unable to reach a majority decision as to whether the Bill be passed. The committee did, however, agree unanimously with the recommendations outlined in this report.

    –  Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that the Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines explains to the House, during the second reading debate on the Bill, the consultation process that will be undertaken on the updated self-assessable codes, including details of who will be consulted.

    –  Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines provides an update, during the second reading debate on the Bill, on the steps, including the associated timescales, that will be taken:

–   to improve the accuracy of vegetation mapping, and

–   to proactively engage with landholders to provide them with updated property maps of assessable vegetation which correct any inaccuracies.

    –  Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that the element of clause 6 of the Bill, which inserts new section 67A into the Vegetation Management Act 1999 to reverse the onus of proof in relation to vegetation clearing offences, be omitted.

    –  Recommendation 4

The committee recommends that the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection engage with the property, resources and development sectors to assess and establish the full impact of the proposed amendments to the environmental offsets regime in Queensland.

    –  Recommendation 5

The committee recommends that the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef informs the House, during the second reading debate on the Bill, of the outcome of the assessment of the impacts, including potential costs, of the proposed amendments to the environmental offset regime and if any actions will be taken.

EDO Qld does not support position of Qld Law Society on veg laws

3 June 2016

EDO Qld does not support the position of the Queensland Law Society on vegetation management laws.

EDO Qld is surprised that the Queensland Law Society has come out so strongly against these basic laws that have been in effect and accepted since 2004, being the reversal of the onus of proof, and the exclusion of the defence of the mistake of fact.

These laws have been found to be necessary to make sure that our Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld) is able to be properly enforced across Queensland; in other words, to safeguard justice around the protection of our state’s vegetation.

The reversal of the onus of proof and removal of the defence of mistake of fact may sound contentious, but there is express provision in the Fundamental Legislative Principles which provide for situations where the onus of proof can be reversed if necessary to ensure that a law is upheld, where the matter would be extremely difficult, or very expensive for the State to prove, and where the subject of proof is peculiarly within the defendant’s knowledge.  (See section 7.2.4 of the Qld Legislation Handbook).

The proof of the identity of who cleared vegetation fits just this scenario – it is extremely difficult and expensive for the State to gather sufficient evidence to prove the identity of who cleared land once it is cleared across the vast expanses of Queensland, and the proof as to whether it was the landholder or not is within the defendant’s knowledge and ability to easily prove.

Equally, the Criminal Code provides express permission to exclude the operation of the defence of mistake of fact (section 24(2)). In the Vegetation Management Act it is seen as necessary to exclude the defence of mistake of fact due to the enormous amounts of resources the Department has put into informing landholders of the regulations provided around clearing under the Vegetation Management Act, which has been in place since 1999, and due to the difficulty in disproving a state of mind that might have existed at the time of the offence. This defence has equally been excluded in our Forestry Act 1959 (Qld) (section 94) and until recently in our Water Act 2000 (Qld).

EDO Qld thoroughly support that the Fundamental Legislative Principles should be followed as far as possible, but equally, as envisaged by the Principles themselves, there are some instances where the Principles are not seen to be appropriate to apply, to ensure that a law is effective – the reinstatement of these provisions in our Vegetation Management Act is one of those instances.

Planning Bills passed, don’t strengthen environment protection for koalas and other critters

12 May 2016

Last night the Queensland Parliament passed the Government’s suite of Planning Bills. These Bills are not expected to come into effect until mid-2017 to allow Queensland to adjust to the new system.

The Planning Bills are clearly better for public participation, transparency and accountability than what the State opposition was proposing, with some amendments to improve accountability, transparency and certainty. However, disappointingly,  these reforms do not strengthen environmental protection, compared to what we had under Premier Anna Bligh.

Overall these Bills maintain the status quo on environmental protection, which is not good enough given how our planning system is failing to protect nature, such as clearly failing our koalas in SE Queensland.

Chief Executive Officer of EDO Qld and solicitor Jo Bragg says: “the Planning Bills, as amended, are better than what the State opposition was proposing; however, that is not good enough.

“There are some improvements to public participation, transparency and accountability. However, the community is not happy with developers being able to choose assessment managers to decide their applications (the safeguards against conflict of interest are not convincing), or with vague criteria for developers to gain exemption certificates from regular assessment.

“We are gravely concerned that there is no clear guidance either in the legislation, or in State policies, as to what development needs to go into the impact assessable category with public notification and appeal rights, as this means we will probably continue to see an ever increasing volume of developments in the code assessable category where the community is not even notified.

“In particular, these reforms do not strengthen environmental protection, compared to what we had under Premier Anna Bligh, which is not good enough given how our planning system is failing to protect nature, such as clearly failing our koalas in South East Queensland.”

See our notes on the good and bad features of the Bill below.

EDO Qld thanks all those community members who put in powerful submissions to urge the government to better provide for meaningful community consultation and stronger environmental protections. Your submissions are why we had some improvements in the Bill.

There will be some key opportunities to get your concerns heard – for example to improve the supporting instruments, including the SEQ Regional Plan, the State Planning Policy and the Planning Regulation.

Notes on the good and bad features of the Bill

The good:

  • The general rule that each party pay their own costs in the Planning and Environment Court has been returned, removing one barrier to community participation;
  • The power to approve code assessable development even where it does not comply with any assessment benchmarks has been removed from the Bill by an amendment;
  • There have been some improvements to public notification, including providing that a regulation may specify a public notification period of greater than 15 business days. This suggests that we will see restoration of a regulation requiring at least 30 business days public notification for a list or more sensitive or high risk/complex development;
  • There has been some strengthening of the role of the Queensland Heritage Council and heritage assessment.

The bad:

  • The required improvements to environmental protections have not been provided; there are no requirements for baseline assessments of environmental values, or performance indicators to demonstrate how well measures to protect our environmental values are operating. A recently released report from the University of Queensland has demonstrated that koala populations have declined by approximately 80% in the Koala Coast and 54% in Pine Rivers between 1996 and 2014 under our current planning framework. The Bills passed last night do nothing to improve the future of our koalas, or our other critters and ecosystems;
  • Specialist agencies have not had their concurrence agency powers, taken away under the previous government, restored – so their views are not required to be followed by the Department of Planning. The relevant expertise of specialist agencies must be a required component of planning decision making that is not able to be ignored, to ensure that decisions are made on the best available expertise;
  • Exemption certificates are introduced to allow a development to be certified as exempt from needing assessment and approval (and therefore also exempt from any notification to the community) where broad, vague criteria are met. The reasons for why an exemption certificate was provided are at least now required to be published and available to the public;
  • Developers can still choose their own assessment managers. At very least, some measures have been implemented to address conflicts of interest that may arise around chosen assessment managers. However, the issue of assessment managers getting too close and familiar with developers is still real.

Nature conservation reinstated as the primary goal of national park management

11 May 2016

On 11 May 2016 the Queensland Government reinstated nature conservation as the primary goal of national park management.

This reform reverses the changes made in 2013 and 2014 which broadened and downgraded the protected area concept. Those changes had placed competing interests on a par with nature conservation in national parks.

For more information see the following statement from Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles, here.

Background:

The Nature Conservation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 amends the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and other legislation. Read EDO Qld’s full submission on the Bill here.

Summary of our submission:

1.      We support the reinstatement of the conservation of nature as the sole object of the NC Act and the other proposed amendments that take measures to restore the protection previously afforded in the legislation for protected areas.

We recommend that further amendments are undertaken to fully restore the cardinal principle to the NC Act and effectuate it through the appropriate management of Queensland’s National Park estate. These further amendments are provided in points 4 and 5 here.

2.      We recommend that the principles of ecologically sustainable development, as enshrined in the Commonwealth Government’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (1992), should be properly reflected in the NC Act.

3.      We support the amendments to improve public participation in the management of our protected areas.

We recommend that further amendments are required to greatly improve public participation overall in decision making in the NC Act and thereby improve transparency and accountability in the management of our protected areas.

4.      Special management areas (controlled action) should be removed from the NC Act. The allowance of manipulation of national park tenure areas confuses and detracts from the cardinal principle. Existing special management areas (controlled action) could be removed from national park tenure and instead become conservation parks or national park (recovery). At very least special management areas (controlled action) should be clarified so that this designation can only be used for managing threats to a national park tenure and not for development or inappropriate activities.

5.      We recommend the removal of reference to ecotourism facility from section 35 of the NC Act, and that no avenue for tourist resorts to be established within national parks is provided.

6.      We recommend the alignment of the classes of protected areas to the IUCN protected area management categories, or at least the reintroduction of wilderness areas, World Heritage management areas and international agreement areas.

Chain of Responsibility puts Queensland taxpayers ahead of slippery corporates

22 April 2016

UPDATE 27-06-2016: Membership of a stakeholders’ working group to discuss guidelines under the legislation is now finalised. The first meeting of the working group was held in June. Jo Bragg (CEO), Revel Pointon (Law Reform Solicitor) and Tim Buckley (expert financial analyst) attended for EDO Qld, the only community or environment organisation to form part of the working group amongst industry and government stakeholders. The next meeting of the group will be held in early July.

22 April 2016

Public interest lawyers Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) welcome Queensland Parliament’s passing of stronger environmental laws to help prevent communities and taxpayers getting stuck with multi million dollar environmental clean-ups.

EDO Qld CEO Jo-Anne Bragg said: “The Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016 will give the government new tools to hold mining and other projects accountable for the environmental harm they may cause and to force cleanup even if the operator goes broke.”

“We strongly congratulate Minister Steven Miles and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for taking this initiative and trust they will be using these new powers effectively in the public interest,” she said.

“The Bill sends a clear message to industry’s poor environmental performers that they are accountable for and must clean-up their mess and rehabilitate their sites instead of just wiping their hands and walking away.

“Right now, Queensland and taxpayers are faced with a multi-million dollar clean-up bill of projects including the Texas Silver mine. The Queensland Nickel site next to the Great Barrier Reef is of grave environmental concern in the face of unfunded millions needed for the clean-up.

“We expect the Queensland Government to exercise its powers actively and efficiently, as without implementation the Bill will not deliver on its potential. As always, EDO Qld lawyers will be happy to discuss implementation with the Government and keep a watchful eye over the process in the public interest.

“We already have 15,000 abandoned mining sites in Queensland with liability to the public purse of over $1 billion and we’re counting on the State Government and the Chain of Responsibility to help stop more projects being added to this list.”

For background information on the Bill, see here.

Laws passed to protect Queensland taxpayers against costly environmental clean-ups

22 April 2016

On the morning of Friday 22 April 2016, EDO Qld welcomed the passage of the new laws to prevent mining and resources industry executives from leaving Queensland taxpayers with costly clean up bills for developments. Read the full statement from EDO Qld CEO Jo-Anne Bragg here.

The Bill is available on Qld parliament’s website, here.

BACKGROUND:

The Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016 was introduced in the Queensland Parliament on 15 March 2016. This Bill seeks to amend the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) to enhance environmental protections and give the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) more powers to help avoid State liability for environmental damage from sites operated by companies in financial difficulty.

The need for this bill has been highlighted recently through the financial downturn and environmental threats posed by sites such as the Yabulu Nickel Refinery and the Texas Silver Mine. As quoted from the Bill’s explanatory notes:

“Urgent amendments are required to ensure that the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection can effectively impose a chain of responsibility so that these companies and their related parties bear the cost of managing and rehabilitating sites…Without additional powers in the EP Act, there is a risk that the State will incur operational and financial responsibility for sites in financial difficulty.”

EDO Qld commends the Queensland Government for taking strong action to prevent environmental harm, and State liability for this harm, being incurred through the irresponsible operations of some players in the resources sector. This legislation is essential for safeguarding Queensland against the repercussions of the steady downturn of the mining sector.

Some of the key features in the Bill are:

  • providing DEHP with the power to issue environmental protection orders to a party that has some relevant relationship to the company that is in financial difficulty where there is a risk of, or existing, environmental harm occurring (for example a parent company or executive officer);
  • enabling the amendment of environmental authorities (EA) by DEHP on the transfer of the EA to require the provision of a financial assurance or bond;
  • the power to compel persons associated with companies in financial difficulty, including employees, to answer questions in relation to alleged offences committed; and
  • providing more powers to DEHP to access information for evidentiary purposes.

Case study example: Queensland Nickel Yabulu Refinery

The Yabulu refinery, previously operated by Queensland Nickel, sits in close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area. Queensland Nickel went into voluntary administration in January 2016, causing significant job cuts and leaving concerns that tailings dams reportedly containing potentially toxic matter were left without sufficient staff to manage the environmental risk posed by these dams.[1] No financial assurance was held by DEHP for the refinery.

Ownership was transferred to Queensland Nickel Sales.[2] Without passage of this Bill, DEHP would have limited power to ensure that those who profited from the refinery are held accountable for any environmental harm that the activities may cause, and DEHP may therefore incur responsibility for managing this potential harm.

This Bill will ensure that persons ‘related’ to a company, for example, a person who has received financial benefit from the company’s operations or been in a position to influence the company’s environmental conduct, can be issued with an environmental protection order (EPO) to ensure that person funds or undertakes the necessary activities to avoid or remediate environmental damage from the activities. The power helps to ensure that DEHP does not incur the financial debt and resource burden of remediating or avoiding any potential environmental harm from the refinery’s operations.

The Bill assists in ensuring that companies and directors take their environmental obligations seriously and cannot bypass these obligations or escape financial liability through selling or trading out of their activities prior to fulfilling their responsibilities.

Retrospective elements

The Bill contains elements that are retrospective, meaning that they may operate with effect to circumstances that occurred prior to the passing of the Bill. These elements include, for example, requiring employees to answer questions in relation to an offence that might have taken place prior to the commencement of the Bill, as well as allowing DEHP to issue an environmental protection order for an offence that took place prior to the commencement of the bill.

While there is a general principle that legislation should not operate retrospectively, retrospectivity is allowed when drafting or amending legislation where it is needed to achieve a policy objective and where any potential adverse effects on individual rights are outweighed by the public interest.

The retrospective elements of this bill are fulfilling policy objectives of ‘facilitating enhanced environmental protection’ and ‘avoiding the State bearing the costs of managing and rehabilitating sites in financial difficulty’, and are seen to be necessary for the public interest in providing for environmental protection measures to help avoid environmental harm from abandoned or poorly managed sites operating under an EA surrounding these objectives.

If the Bill did not provide for these retrospective elements, DEHP may not have sufficient power to ensure that environmental harm or risk of environmental harm which is in existence prior to the passing of the Bill is avoided or remediated by the appropriate related person, and to avoid Government liability for this harm. These elements fit within the necessary requirements for retrospectivity and are therefore seen to be appropriate and necessary.

The Bill was referred to the Agriculture and Environment Committee for consideration, read the Committee Report here

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/new-queensland-environment-law-takes-aim-at-clive-palmer-20160315-gnjjsn.html; http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2016/s4422784.htm; http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/queensland-nickel-jobs-hang-in-the-balance/news-story/1911b0a7663514867fe93695d90b42cd

[2] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/clive-palmers-queensland-nickel-sales-not-licensed-20160309-gne8kd.html

 

Please help protect our wildlife and ecosystems from broadscale land clearing – get your submission in by 25 April!

18 April 2016

The Queensland Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 is currently under inquiry by a parliamentary committee. Public submissions are  due on 25 April 2016.

This Bill is fulfilment of a 2015 election commitment by the Palaszczuk government to reinstate vegetation protection laws weakened under the Newman government. See here for History and background.

It is essential that this Bill is passed, to ensure the Great Barrier Reef, wildlife, soils, waterways and our climate are protected from the devastating impacts of broadscale clearing.

Parliament needs to hear from you as to why our vegetation must be protected from broad scale clearing. This is important, as Parliament will certainly be hearing from a poorly informed, noisy minority who wants rights to clear, regardless of the environmental impacts.

We understand farmers and landholders need to do essential or routine maintenance clearing on their properties. That clearing won’t be restricted by this Bill.

Reinstatement of “reversal of the onus of proof” sounds complicated, but our legal opinion is that this reinstatement is nothing to fear for responsible landholders. This was part of the law for years,  without even one example of a problem, until the Newman changes.

All “reversal of the onus of proof”  means is that, unless proven otherwise,  a landholder is considered responsible for any clearing on their own land. Just like if the car you owned was to run a red light, it would be assumed that you were driving, unless you could show otherwise.

Please, get your submission to the Committee by 25 April (and let us know if you sent one in).

To make it easy for you, we have prepared a basic template you can use as a base for your submission.  Remember to take out and fill in all of the highlighted sections as described. This time we have not put the key points in for you: rather it is up to you to add key points to that template from the suggested list below.

And remember: the more you can personalise your submission with your thoughts and case studies as to why the Committee should follow your recommendations, the more effective your submission will be!

Key points we suggest you could include in your submissions:

  • Who you or your group are, what are your objectives and any case examples about land clearing
  • Reasons why you care about protecting our vegetation – e.g. do you care about:
    • protecting koalas, or other threatened species of concern to you;
    • the impact of tree clearing on  increasing drought in our already drought stricken state – it has now been proven that the more trees we have, the more rain we have;
    • the impact of tree clearing on climate change  – tree clearing causes millions of tonnes of CO2 to be released into our atmosphere;
    • tree clearing near catchments can cause land erosion and run off into our river catchments – the erosion and run off caused by clearing along the Great Barrier Reef catchment banks is a leading cause of impacts to our Reef; or
    • any other issues you are concerned about that are relevant to your area.
  • Support the passing of the bill, to protect Queensland’s ecosystems and wildlife. This bill is important particularly because it:
    • reinstates the protection of high value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land;
    • removes provisions which permit clearing applications for high value agriculture and irrigated agriculture;
    • broadens protection of riparian vegetation, especially in the Great Barrier Reef catchments of Burnett Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy Great Barrier Reef;
    • reinstates the application of the riverine protection permit framework to the destruction of vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring; and
    • reinstates a broader requirement for environmental offsets to be required for any residual impact, not just ‘significant’ impacts as is currently provided for in offsets legislation (and has led to only 1 offset being registered for vegetation impacts since 2014).

EDO Qld – in association with WWF-Australia, The Wilderness Society and Sunshine Coast Environment Council – recently held LawJam’s on vegetation management reforms in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

Download the presentation slides from our presenters here:

How to make a submission

The closing date for lodging submissions is Monday 25 April 2016.

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

or by email to: vminquiry@parliament.qld.gov.au

Submissions must be:

  • clearly written
  • emailed directly, or emailed as an attached Word/PDF document, or via post or fax
  • brief and to the point, and include any information to support your points

Submissions must include:

  • the author’s name and signature
  • if the submission is made on behalf of an organisation, the level of approval (e.g. a local branch, executive committee or national organisation)
  • mailing address (and email if available)
  • daytime telephone number

For more information see:

You can support the fight for Queensland’s environment by clicking here to make a secure online donation to EDO Qld.

EDO Qld welcomes community objection rights; warns stricter guidelines still needed

18 April 2016

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland again congratulates Minister Lynham and the Queensland Government for taking the final step towards fully restoring community objection rights to mining proposals; noting stricter guidelines are still needed.

EDO Queensland fronted the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee on Monday as part of our continued commitment to work with the State Government to fully reinstate rights after the Newman LNP Government took them away.

EDO Qld CEO Jo Bragg said: “Minister Lynham and the Queensland Government are to be congratulated in this next step to fully restoring community objection rights to mining proposals with the Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, after restoring rights for major projects in mid-2015.

“EDO Qld has been leading the fight to have these community objection rights reinstated. There is no evidence whatsoever that these rights are abused – in fact the opposite is the case. These rights are are vital to avoid disastrous holes in the ground to help refuse or add strict conditions to bad projects, such as the Alpha coal mine case where serious groundwater impacts were exposed by the community,” Ms Bragg said.

“Just like the Chain of Responsibility is vital for government to make companies such as Queensland Nickel and Linc Energy clean up their mess when things go wrong during operation, community objection rights are important to scutinise projects before they start in order to hold their owners to account on exaggerated benefits and underplayed costs,” she said.

“The importance of community objection rights can be seen in a number of cases such as the Adani Carmichael mine case, where it took the community group objecting in the Land Court to expose the 10,000 jobs claimed by Adani was grossly inflated and the reality was the project would result in a mere 1,464 net jobs across the country.

“The reality is the mining industry doesn’t like the scrutiny of legitimate, valid objections to their massive mines. Rather than accepting that in a democracy massive projects need thorough scrutiny, the mining industry now wants to rush objector timeframes in the Land Court. There is no credible basis for complaints from the mining industry about time-frames in the Land Court.

“The New Acland Coal mine expansion case currently before the Land Court is an excellent example of why we need proper and non-rushed access to justice for community members. Many landholders get up at 4:30am to do work around the farm and are trying to plough fields, manage stock as well as be involved in a stressful court case fighting for their groundwater, health and community rights. The process needs to allow these valid concerns to be raised rather than rushed.

“EDO Qld has raised many suggestions for improvement that will increase access to justice for the community. To improve the objection process, we also still need stricter quality guidelines on data in Environmental Impact Statements from mining companies and more assistance for objectors earlier on in the assessment process.

“In a State with 15,000 abandoned mine sites we also want proper processes not more polluted sites. To avoid more abandoned or un-rehabilitated sites we also urgently need to see tightening of requirements for bonds or financial assurances for mines.” 

Protect our wildlife and ecosystems from broadscale land clearing – get your submission in by Friday 29 April 2016!

14 April 2016

The Queensland Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 is currently under inquiry by a parliamentary committee. Public submissions are due Friday 29 April 2016 (formerly 25 April).

This Bill is fulfilment of a 2015 election commitment by the Palaszczuk government to reinstate vegetation protection laws weakened under the Newman government. See here for history and background.

It is essential that this Bill is passed, to ensure the Great Barrier Reef, wildlife, soils, waterways and our climate are protected from the devastating impacts of broadscale clearing.

Parliament needs to hear from you as to why our vegetation must be protected from broad scale clearing. This is important, as Parliament will certainly be hearing from a poorly informed, noisy minority who wants rights to clear, regardless of the environmental impacts.

We understand farmers and landholders need to do essential or routine maintenance clearing on their properties. That clearing won’t be restricted by this Bill.

Reinstatement of “reversal of the onus of proof” sounds complicated, but our legal opinion is that this reinstatement is nothing to fear for responsible landholders. This was part of the law for years,  without even one example of a problem, until the Newman changes.

All “reversal of the onus of proof”  means is that, unless proven otherwise,  a landholder is considered responsible for any clearing on their own land. Just like if the car you owned was to run a red light, it would be assumed that you were driving, unless you could show otherwise.

Please, get your submission to the Committee by Friday 29 April 2016 (and let us know if you sent one in).

To make it easy for you, we have prepared a basic template you can use as a base for your submission.  Remember to take out and fill in all of the highlighted sections as described. This time we have not put the key points in for you: rather it is up to you to add key points to that template from the suggested list below.

And remember: the more you can personalise your submission with your thoughts and case studies as to why the Committee should follow your recommendations, the more effective your submission will be!

Key points we suggest you could include in your submissions:

  • Who you or your group are, what are your objectives and any case examples about land clearing
  • Reasons why you care about protecting our vegetation – e.g. do you care about:
    • protecting koalas, or other threatened species of concern to you;
    • the impact of tree clearing on  increasing drought in our already drought stricken state – it has now been proven that the more trees we have, the more rain we have;
    • the impact of tree clearing on climate change  – tree clearing causes millions of tonnes of CO2 to be released into our atmosphere;
    • tree clearing near catchments can cause land erosion and run off into our river catchments – the erosion and run off caused by clearing along the Great Barrier Reef catchment banks is a leading cause of impacts to our Reef; or
    • any other issues you are concerned about that are relevant to your area.
  • Support the passing of the bill, to protect Queensland’s ecosystems and wildlife. This bill is important particularly because it:
    • reinstates the protection of high value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land;
    • removes provisions which permit clearing applications for high value agriculture and irrigated agriculture;
    • broadens protection of riparian vegetation, especially in the Great Barrier Reef catchments of Burnett Mary, Eastern Cape York and Fitzroy Great Barrier Reef;
    • reinstates the application of the riverine protection permit framework to the destruction of vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring; and
    • reinstates a broader requirement for environmental offsets to be required for any residual impact, not just ‘significant’ impacts as is currently provided for in offsets legislation (and has led to only 1 offset being registered for vegetation impacts since 2014).

EDO Qld – in association with WWF-Australia, The Wilderness Society and Sunshine Coast Environment Council – recently held LawJam’s on vegetation management reforms in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

Download the presentation slides from our presenters here:

How to make a submission

The closing date for lodging submissions is Friday 29 April 2016.

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

or by email to: vminquiry@parliament.qld.gov.au

Submissions must be:

  • clearly written
  • emailed directly, or emailed as an attached Word/PDF document, or via post or fax
  • brief and to the point, and include any information to support your points

Submissions must include:

  • the author’s name and signature
  • if the submission is made on behalf of an organisation, the level of approval (e.g. a local branch, executive committee or national organisation)
  • mailing address (and email if available)
  • daytime telephone number

For more information see:

You can support the fight for Queensland’s environment by clicking here to make a secure online donation to EDO Qld.

Let the Qld Govt know – Qld deserves a Human Rights Act! Submissions due 18 April

5 April 2016

The Legislative Assembly has requested that the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee inquire into ‘whether it is appropriate and desirable to legislate for a Human Rights Act in Queensland’.

EDO Qld strongly encourages submissions to be made in favour of the creation of a Human Rights Act in Queensland.

By passing a Human Rights Act, Queensland will make a statement demonstrating its support for fundamental human rights, and committing to the consideration of human rights by the government in the introduction of new legislation. Although Australia is a signatory to many international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, there is currently no blanket recognition of human rights in Australia or Queensland.

A Human Rights Act would be highly beneficial to Queenslanders through helping to safeguard the basic freedoms and protections that all human beings are entitled to. These basic rights should include the right to a healthy environment, such as the right to clean air and water. Without a clean, healthy environment, the basic human rights to life, health, work and education all cannot be fully realised. As stated in principle 1 of the Rio Declaration, human beings are “at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.  They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.”[1]

The passing of a Human Rights Act would be a step forward in the effectiveness of our laws in protecting our human right to a healthy environment, and would also help to give more rights to those whose lives are impacted by environmental abuses.

Some key points you might like to make in your submission in support of the right to a healthy environment are:

  • Through introducing a human right to a healthy environment, the government will be required to consider in a more fulsome way how proposed legislation or policy might impact on people, including the environment those people are dependent on for their livelihoods or health.
  • By providing a requirement for the consideration up front of the impact a proposed project, law or policy might have on the human right to a healthy environment, there is less chance that litigation might be undertaken to challenge that project, law or policy on the basis of the impacts to the right to a healthy environment.
  • Too often the rights of more marginalised Queenslanders are not given as strong a weight as the rights of others; for example, rural Queenslander’s, including indigenous people, frequently suffer impacts to their air and water quality which would not be allowed to occur in urban Queensland. A Human Rights Act would help to address this imbalance in the concern for the environmental needs of marginalised people versus those in cities.
  • A Human Rights Act would help to ensure that the Government gives appropriate consideration to the rights of all Queenslanders to transparency and accountability in governance, through ensuring rights such as the right to access to information, such as monitoring data, or the right to have your concern’s heard with respect to development proposals that might affect you.

Written submissions addressing the terms of reference are now invited, and will be accepted until 4.00pm on Monday, 18 April 2016.

To view the Terms of Reference and find out how to make a submission, click here.

Submissions should be directed to:

Email address:  lacsc@parliament.qld.gov.au

Postal address:

The Research Director
Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee
Parliament House
Brisbane QLD 4000

EDO Qld will be providing a template submission shortly to help you in the preparation of your submission. Stay tuned!

[1]http://www.unep.org/documents.multilingual/default.asp?documentid=78&articleid=1163]

Support objection rights being fully restored! Submissions due 8 April

4 April 2016

The Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (MOLA Bill) was introduced into Parliament on 23 February 2016.

This Bill amends the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2014 (Common Provisions Act) which was passed by the Newman Government with numerous concerning attacks on the community’s right to object to mines. EDO Qld has worked tirelessly to have those parts of the Common Provisions Act repealed, which include the limiting of the community’s right to object to environmental impacts of a mine – thankfully this section was repealed in mid-2015 by the current government. The MOLA Bill intends on repealing those remaining sections of the Common Provisions Act which affect objection rights, to finally fully restore community rights to object to mines as existed prior to the Common Provisions Act changes. This will mean that any person will continue to have the right to object to a mining lease, rather than limiting the right to narrowly defined ‘directly affected’ people as proposed by the Common Provisions Act.

EDO Qld applauds the Government for fulfilling their election commitment to reinstate these important community objection rights. Mining is one of the biggest impacts on our communities and environment; it is essential that the community has the right to have their concerns heard with respect to proposed mines. 

The MOLA Bill also ensures that the Land Court can consider the financial viability and technical capability of a mining proponent when considering whether they should be granted a mining lease, whether the public right and interest will be prejudiced and whether the level of development of a mining site is acceptable. The Common Provisions Act had transferred these considerations to only the Minister, and not the Land Court in its review.

As many sections of the Common Provisions Act have not yet commenced, if the MOLA Bill is passed it will mean existing public notification obligations and objection rights for variation and standard mining applications for environmental authorities will continue to operate as currently in force.

However, there are sections of the Common Provisions Act that the MOLA Bill regrettably does not propose to repeal or amend, such as :

  • The efforts to coordinate public notification into one period for the mining lease, environmental authority and EIS. This means that submitters have only one specific timeframe in which to provide their comment – removing any back up that they might otherwise have had should they not be able to provide a submission in time during the public notification on either the application for the mining lease, the EIS or the draft environmental authority, as was previously available. Many community members are used to mining leases being notified after the EIS has been finalised.
  • Opt-out agreements will still be able to be entered by landholders – opt-out agreements opens up the possibility for landholders to be bullied into giving up their right to obtain a Conduct and Compensation Agreement. This in turn would mean the landholder has no recourse to the Land Court if there is a material change to the activity. There is little benefit provided to landholders through this provision, and substantial risk.
  • Restricted distances are inadequate and should be increased – While we support the insertion of prescribed distances within which certain activities cannot occur, the proposed restricted distances are inadequate to truly protect landholders from the significant impacts of mining activities. Also, we do not support the activities which will be excluded from needing to comply with restricted distances, many of which will reasonably have an impact on landholders at the allowed distances from their residences.

EDO Qld will continue to work to improve community rights to have your concerns heard with respect to mines as high environmental and community impacting projects.

Submissions close 4.00pm Friday 8 April 2016

Send your submissions to:

Email:    ipnrc@parliament.qld.gov.au

or

Post:

Research Director
Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee
Parliament House
George Street
Brisbane Qld 4000

EDO Qld have prepared a template submission, available here, to help you with your submissions.

We highly recommend you amend the template to reflect your personal reasons or case studies for why you care about this bill going through, and change the structure and font etc to make sure that your individual submission is given the weight it deserves by the Committee.

Chain of Responsibility Bill: Have your say before 31 March 2016

30 March 2016

EDO Qld have prepared a submission template to help guide the preparation of submissions, available here.  We highly recommend you amend the template to reflect your personal reasons or case studies for why you care about this bill going through, and change the structure and font etc to make sure that your individual submission is given the weight it deserves by the Committee.

The Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016 was introduced in the Queensland Parliament on 15 March 2016. This Bill seeks to amend the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) to enhance environmental protections and give the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) more powers to help avoid State liability for environmental damage from sites operated by companies in financial difficulty.

The need for this bill has been highlighted recently through the financial downturn and environmental threats posed by sites such as the Yabulu Nickel Refinery and the Texas Silver Mine. As quoted from the Bill’s explanatory notes:

“Urgent amendments are required to ensure that the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection can effectively impose a chain of responsibility so that these companies and their related parties bear the cost of managing and rehabilitating sites…Without additional powers in the EP Act, there is a risk that the State will incur operational and financial responsibility for sites in financial difficulty.”

EDO Qld commends the Queensland Government for taking strong action to prevent environmental harm, and State liability for this harm, being incurred through the irresponsible operations of some players in the resources sector. This legislation is essential for safeguarding Queensland against the repercussions of the steady downturn of the mining sector.

Some of the key features in the Bill are:

  • providing DEHP with the power to issue environmental protection orders to a party that has some relevant relationship to the company that is in financial difficulty where there is a risk of, or existing, environmental harm occurring (for example a parent company or executive officer);
  • enabling the amendment of environmental authorities (EA) by DEHP on the transfer of the EA to require the provision of a financial assurance or bond;
  • the power to compel persons associated with companies in financial difficulty, including employees, to answer questions in relation to alleged offences committed; and
  • providing more powers to DEHP to access information for evidentiary purposes.

Case study example: Queensland Nickel Yabulu Refinery

The Yabulu refinery, previously operated by Queensland Nickel, sits in close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area. Queensland Nickel went into voluntary administration in January 2016, causing significant job cuts and leaving concerns that tailings dams reportedly containing potentially toxic matter were left without sufficient staff to manage the environmental risk posed by these dams.[1] No financial assurance was held by DEHP for the refinery.

Ownership was transferred to Queensland Nickel Sales.[2] Without passage of this Bill, DEHP would have limited power to ensure that those who profited from the refinery are held accountable for any environmental harm that the activities may cause, and DEHP may therefore incur responsibility for managing this potential harm.

This Bill will ensure that persons ‘related’ to a company, for example, a person who has received financial benefit from the company’s operations or been in a position to influence the company’s environmental conduct, can be issued with an environmental protection order (EPO) to ensure that person funds or undertakes the necessary activities to avoid or remediate environmental damage from the activities. The power helps to ensure that DEHP does not incur the financial debt and resource burden of remediating or avoiding any potential environmental harm from the refinery’s operations.

The Bill assists in ensuring that companies and directors take their environmental obligations seriously and cannot bypass these obligations or escape financial liability through selling or trading out of their activities prior to fulfilling their responsibilities.

Retrospective elements

The Bill contains elements that are retrospective, meaning that they may operate with effect to circumstances that occurred prior to the passing of the Bill. These elements include, for example, requiring employees to answer questions in relation to an offence that might have taken place prior to the commencement of the Bill, as well as allowing DEHP to issue an environmental protection order for an offence that took place prior to the commencement of the bill.

While there is a general principle that legislation should not operate retrospectively, retrospectivity is allowed when drafting or amending legislation where it is needed to achieve a policy objective and where any potential adverse effects on individual rights are outweighed by the public interest.

The retrospective elements of this bill are fulfilling policy objectives of ‘facilitating enhanced environmental protection’ and ‘avoiding the State bearing the costs of managing and rehabilitating sites in financial difficulty’, and are seen to be necessary for the public interest in providing for environmental protection measures to help avoid environmental harm from abandoned or poorly managed sites operating under an EA surrounding these objectives.

If the Bill did not provide for these retrospective elements, DEHP may not have sufficient power to ensure that environmental harm or risk of environmental harm which is in existence prior to the passing of the Bill is avoided or remediated by the appropriate related person, and to avoid Government liability for this harm. These elements fit within the necessary requirements for retrospectivity and are therefore seen to be appropriate and necessary.

Get your submissions in by Thursday 31 March 2016

The Bill has been referred to the Agriculture and Environment Committee for consideration. The closing date for lodging submissions is Thursday 31 March 2016.

EDO Qld have prepared a submission template to help guide the preparation of submissions. We highly recommend you amend the template to reflect your personal reasons or case studies for why you care about this bill going through, and change the structure and font etc to make sure that your individual submission is given the weight it deserves by the Committee.

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

or by email to: aec@parliament.qld.gov.au

See: Guide to making submissions.

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/new-queensland-environment-law-takes-aim-at-clive-palmer-20160315-gnjjsn.html; http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2016/s4422784.htm; http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/queensland-nickel-jobs-hang-in-the-balance/news-story/1911b0a7663514867fe93695d90b42cd

[2] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/clive-palmers-queensland-nickel-sales-not-licensed-20160309-gne8kd.html

 

The urgent issue of vegetation protection in Queensland

18 March 2016

Find out more: 7 April in Brisbane or 13 April on the Sunshine Coast.

On 17th March 2016 the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad introduced a Bill to reinstate vegetation protection laws weakened under the Newman government. Given rising rates of vegetation clearing this is a very welcome move.

The Bill proposes to amend the Vegetation Management Act 1999, the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, the Water Act 2000, the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 to:

  • reinstate the protection of high value regrowth on freehold and indigenous land;
  • remove provisions which permit clearing applications for high value agriculture and irrigated agriculture;
  • broaden protection of riparian vegetation, especially in the Great Barrier Reef catchments
  • reinstate the application of the riverine protection permit framework to the destruction of vegetation in a watercourse, lake or spring, and
  • reinstate certain environmental offset requirements

EDO Qld will analyse the Bill  to assist our subscribers make submissions which are due 25 April 2016.

BACKGROUND

Broadscale vegetation clearing causes extensive loss of wildlife habitat, damages soils, pollutes the Great Barrier Reef, and leads to greenhouse gas emissions. That is why EDO Qld, a public interest non-profit community legal centre  is working on this key environmental issue now in partnership with other key conservation  groups, and has done so for two decades.

In the mid 1990s there was massive broadscale vegetation clearing in Queensland. An incredible estimated 2-300,000 hectares or so bulldozed every year. Queenslanders had to fight just to get those figures on clearing rates made public.

After successive public campaigns by the conservation sector, and general community concern when images of bulldozed forests were publicised,  Premier Peter Beattie’s State government brought in new laws in 2004 to restrict broadscale land clearing, the Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2004 (Queensland).

A sigh of relief was breathed. Commonwealth governments of all political persuasions pointed to those Queensland land clearing restrictions to help achieve Australia’s targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Substantial financial assistance, $150 million, was allocated to rural representative organisations and farmers to help rural industries cope with the new rules. Clearing did not stop completely. In fact a very large amount was still routinely being cleared in Queensland under exemptions and exceptions.

In 2010 under Premier Bligh restrictions were placed on the clearing of high-value regrowth vegetation and native vegetation adjacent to regrowth watercourses in the Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday and Wet Tropics catchments. But after Premier  Newman took government he loosened the rules, allowing clearing for poorly defined “high value agricultural” purposes and allowing more clearing under self assessable codes. Our 2013 submission opposing those changes is here.

In 2015 Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk made a pre-election promise to reinstate the ALP’s nation leading tree clearing laws weakened under Premier Newman. That has not occurred. Instead, disturbing incidences of land clearing allowed or approved under the weakened laws continue, cases like:

And only one instance of illegal clearing during the past year has been successfully prosecuted  in Queensland despite 200 complaints.

EDO Qld are holding two public LawJams on Vegetation Protection. Come along to our first LawJam in Brisbane 7th April, with Jo Bragg of EDO Qld, Dr Martin Taylor of WWF and Dr Tim Seelig of The Wilderness Society – or join Jo and Martin on the Sunshine Coast 13 April.

EDO Qld applauds Environment Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill

18 March 2016

This week Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles introduced a new Bill to handle the Clive Palmer/Qld Nickel type situation. The Bill would give government more powers to make orders forcing clean-up against persons related to companies. This will lessen the risks of Qld taxpayers being left to fund massive clean-up costs if companies go into administration.

EDO Qld spoke on the 7:30 Report and ABC News calling for action to avoid taxpayer clean-up of the Qld Nickel site. Thank you to everyone who signed our petition calling for the government to ensure the public purse did not have to fund a clean-up of the Queensland Nickel site! If you haven’t signed it yet please sign to help make sure the Bill gets through Parliament.

Sign the petition …

Update on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”)

17 March 2016

tpp-blog-photo-large

Over 15,000 submissions were lodged on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”). This shows just how many people are deeply concerned about the many impacts of the TPP.

The Resolution of Appointment for the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) provide the Terms of Reference for this inquiry.

You can view a list of the submissions received at the time the Committee met last month, here. However, the 15, 000 submissions have not yet been uploaded.

Next, there will be public hearings conducted by the Committee, in early May 2016. The Committee is due to table its report on the TPP to Federal Parliament by late June.

Have your say on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”)

4 March 2016

tpp-blog-photo-large

Submissions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) are open until 11 March 2016. We strongly encourage anyone concerned about the many impacts of the TPP to make a submission.

The Resolution of Appointment for the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) provide the Terms of Reference for this inquiry.

You can view a list of the submissions received at the time the Committee met last month, here.

For information on how to make a submission, check out the Parlimetary Inquiry page here.

Submissions for this inquiry can be lodged online here.

Committee to scrutinise planning bills; CCC warns of potential corruption increase

26 February 2016

EDO Qld and community groups will provide oral submissions on the State Government’s proposed planning bills at 9am on Friday (26 February 2016) at the Parliamentary Annex, Brisbane.

Queensland’s Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee will hear from EDO Qld, alongside community groups Brisbane Residents United, Park it Toowong and Kurilpa Futures Campaign Group as part of Committee’s scrutiny of planning bills.

EDO Qld law reform solicitor Revel Pointon said they would be recommending the LNP Private Member bills not be passed.

“The LNP bills would be a seriously retrograde step in Queensland planning – they provide no certainty, no transparency, no accountability in decision making, nor adequate protections for community rights and for our precious ecosystems,” she said.

“We will also be asking the Committee to recommend amendments to the bills proposed by the Government – principally, changes must be made to the Government’s bills to ensure Queenslander’s can have far greater certainty in our planning framework.

“The Crime and Corruption Committee has even highlighted their concerns as to the potential for increased corruption due to the amount of discretions decision makers will be given under the new planning framework.

“Planning decisions involve significant amounts of money and vested interests; Queensland needs strong safeguards in our planning framework to ensure decision makers make the best decisions for Queensland so that they do not abuse their power, and applicants cannot easily ‘work the system’.

“We hope the Committee closely considers the submissions put to them to ensure that community rights and the environment are protected in our new planning framework”.

Kurilpa Futures Campaign Group spokesperson Phil Heywood highlighted the need for changes in assessment rules to replace the present ‘development pipeline’ to ensure neighbours and local communities had rights to be informed. This would also enable them to comment and object on all significant new development proposals, which is not the case under the present and proposed systems, he said.

“The effects of the current ‘performance based system’ of assessment were questioned in favour of evidence based ones of actual height, bulk and site coverage.

“Better practical systems of earlier, more continuous and creative community consultation were put to the committee for their consideration.

Dr Erin Evans, spokesperson for Brisbane Residents United, reflected that we have seen a rapid increase in the number of community groups due to poor planning issues. Across SE QLD there are over 200 groups which speaks volumes about the level of public concern about planning and impacts to people’s lives.

“Neither governments planning bill and the private members bill meet the communities expectations for a transparent, accessible planning scheme that will protect things that matter.

“When the level of discretion raises concerns with the CCC this rings alarms bells that we need to wake up and re-examine the direction.”

Bill important step towards return of community objection rights

23 February 2016

Ms Jo Bragg, CEO and solicitor of EDO Qld said today:

Minister Lynham and the Queensland Government are to be congratulated for taking another step to fully restore community objection rights to mining proposals with the Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016.

Unless they are scrutinised, the mining industry routinely exaggerates the benefits of their mining proposals and underplay the costs. We have seen this in the Adani Carmichael mine case, where it took the community group objecting in the Land Court to expose that the 10,000 jobs claimed by Adani was actually a mere 1,464 net jobs across the country.  We have also seen this in the Alpha Coal case, where the serious groundwater impacts were only exposed through community and landholder objectors to the Land Court.

The reality is the mining industry doesn’t like the scrutiny of legitimate, valid objections to their massive mines. Rather than accepting that in a democracy massive projects need thorough scrutiny, the mining industry now wants to rush objector timeframes in the Land Court. There is no credible basis for complaints from the mining industry about timeframes in the Land Court. The Queensland community and our children will thank the objectors for looking after the future of Queensland.  Minister Lynham has done the right thing for the future with this Bill.

EDO Qld has raised many suggestions for improvement that will increase access to justice for the community. The reforms that EDO Qld say are needed, relating to improve the objection process, include: stricter quality guidelines on data in Environmental Impact Statements (earlier in the assessment processes) from mining companies and more assistance for objectors.

The New Acland Coal mine expansion case, due to start before the Land Court on 7 March, is an excellent example why we need proper access to justice for community members. Many landholders get up at 4:30am to do work around the farm and are trying to plough fields, manage stock as well as be involved in a stressful Court case. Other objectors are concerned about mining destroying prospects of sustainable long-term land use, such as the retention of cropping land. Air quality and groundwater impacts are also crucial. The process needs to allow these valid concerns to be raised rather than rushed.

In a State with 15,000 abandoned mine sites we want proper processes not more polluted sites. To avoid more abandoned or unrehabilitated sites we also urgently need to see tightening of requirements for bonds or financial assurances for mines.

Qld planning reforms: have your say on instruments by 5 February

2 February 2016

The Government is currently seeking comment on the supporting instruments until 6pm 5 February 2016. The supporting instruments include the regulation and the rules and guidelines which now contain much of the substance of the planning framework, including the development assessment rules (previously the IDAS framework).

If you care about the quality of our planning laws, it is integral to get commentary in on these supporting instruments.

Need help? You can also use our submission template.

Simply:
1) Download the submission template
2) Replaced highlighted sections with your details, and add your opinions and any personal examples to support your opinions
3) Send to bestplanning@dilgp.qld.gov.au
4) Let us know you made a submission, by emailing us at edoqld@edoqld.org.au

You can find more information on the Government’s planning framework and public consultation opportunities here: http://www.dilgp.qld.gov.au/planning-reform

If you want more information on those supporting instruments and an update on planning – come to one of our upcoming LawJams (community seminars) we are holding with the Department.

Brisbane, Monday 18 January.

EDO Qld presentation

Department of Planning presentation 

Gold Coast, Tuesday 19 January.

EDO Qld presentation 

Sunshine Coast, Wednesday 20 January.

EDO Qld presentation

Toowoomba, Thursday 28 January.

EDO Qld presentation

More resources

Key Planning Terms

The Department of Planning have provided a useful survey which can help direct your comments on particular issues relevant to the supporting instruments, or to assist in directing your comment in your submissions. If you would like to complete this, you can download it here and complete and send it to bestplanning@dilgp.qld.gov.au.

To assist in completing the survey and/or your submissions, we recommend you review a useful slideshow provided by the Department, with inbuilt video links (click on TVs on slides), which assists in explaining changes to the Government’s Planning Bill prior to introduction to Parliament, and the context of the supporting instruments, downloadable here.

You can find more information on the Government’s planning framework and public consultation opportunities here: http://www.dilgp.qld.gov.au/planning-reform

Review of the EPBC Act ‘water trigger’ – submissions due FRIDAY 29 January

28 January 2016

For major mining projects, like the Alpha Coal Project in the Galilee Basin, it’s extremely valuable that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) provided advice on groundwater as part of the assessment process. The ‘water trigger’, which ensures more projects are referred to the IESC for their expert advice on water impacts for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) is currently under independent review.

The ‘water trigger’ was added to the EPBC Act in June 2013 and requires the referral to and approval of the Australian Government Minister for the Environment of any action that involves a coal seam gas development or a large coal mining action that has, will have, or is likely to have a significant impact on a water resource. CSG and mining activities referred under the EPBC Act water trigger are also referred to the IESC for their independent review of the proposed activity to feed in to the Government’s assessment.

An issue paper has been provided by the Australian Government to set the context of the review, available here with other further information. An FAQ page on the water trigger has also been provided here.

We recommend anyone interested in impacts of gas or mining on water resources provide a submission to this review.

Submissions close this Friday 29 January.

We suggest the following points could be included in submissions (provided with the assistance of EDO NSW):

  • We support the water trigger being provided in the EPBC Act to ensure proposed impacts of CSG and large mines on our precious water resources are subjected to a higher level of assessment, and therefore to provide more community confidence in government regulation of these projects. Most if not all states and territories in Australia do not provide regulation of water use which would adequately reflect the specific requirements of the EPBC Act. The water trigger is a necessary check and balance on these large scale projects which impact above and below-ground water resources;
  • We recommend that the water trigger should be amended to provide for the following:
    • extension of the application of the trigger to apply to all large mines that excavate beneath the water table, as well as to large unconventional gas projects, including shale gas. Shale gas is set to greatly expand in Queensland; an industry which is known to consume a significant amount of non-associated water. The Queensland Government regulation of water is not sufficiently strong to ensure protection of our water resources. It is necessary that the water trigger provides a safety net at a Commonwealth level to protect our water;
    • an express prohibition of hydraulic fracturing, as has been provided in several other jurisdictions (including France, New York and Quebec);
    • a provision that the Minister may not approve a project until the proponent has adequately addressed any concerns raised by the IESC in their report;
    • a requirement that  the Minister refuse a development likely to have a significant impact on water resources; and
    • a requirement that the Minister act consistently with the advice of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC), including a requirement that conditions of consent reflect the IESC’s advice.

You can send your submissions using one or all of the following methods:

Qld Planning Reforms: have your say on proposed legislation by 18 January

13 January 2016

To have your final say on proposed new Queensland planning legislation, get your submissions to State Parliamentary Committee by Monday 18 January 2016.

Make a strong submission, so we get the best planning framework possible to protect community rights and our environment! To assist we have prepared a template submission which you can adapt to suit your concerns, available here.

 

 

Qld planning reforms: supporting instruments – seminars

5 January 2016

Did you have your say on the Planning Bills in 2015? About community rights and protection of nature?

You did? Good! But please keep reading.

The planning reforms propose to pull crucial provisions for community rights out of the Bills and into the so-called “supporting instruments”.

So in 2016, it’s imperative you make your position known on what goes into those so-called “supporting instruments,” before 5 February.

Find out what you need to know about the instruments at one of our free seminars:

 

Brisbane, Monday 18 January.

EDO Qld presentation

Department of Planning presentation 

 

Gold Coast, Tuesday 19 January.

EDO Qld presentation 

 

Sunshine Coast, Wednesday 20 January.

EDO Qld presentation

 

Toowoomba, Thursday 28 January.

EDO Qld presentation

 

More resources

Key Planning Terms

Department of Planning slideshow

Department of Planning survey

Protect Qld’s water resources! Submissions due: Friday 18 December

17 December 2015

Submissions are due on Friday 18 December 2015 for the Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. This Bill provides Labor’s proposed amendments to the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (Qld), passed by the LNP Government last year.

Let the Parliamentary Committee know:

X     The Bill should repeal the proposed statutory right to water for mines

We are outraged to see that in this Bill the government has not included the repeal of the statutory right to water which the former LNP Government proposed to provide to the mining sector. Our farmers still need to get a water licence to access water for their needs, why shouldn’t the resource sector? Providing a statutory right to associated water for mines will mean that the community will no longer have the right to have their concerns heard in Court with regard to water licence applications. This is an affront to the Land Court which recently recommended that the Alpha Coal Mine only be approved if the mine obtains water licences assessed in accordance with the precautionary principle. The water licence regime for the resource sector must be improved; providing them with a statutory right to take water is not the way to improve the management of these large scale water users.
Let the Parliamentary Committee know why you think the resource sector should be required to go through proper licencing application, assessment and community and Court scrutiny, to ensure better decision making to protect our water resources.

–     The Government must implement the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) as the overarching purpose of all decisions in the Act, not just for one chapter!

We are happy to see the principles of ESD reintroduced into the Water Act, however, it has only been introduced to apply to water allocation/ licencing decisions under the Act (Chapter 2). All catchments and ecosystems across Queensland deserve the principles of ESD to be applied to decisions affecting our water resources. Further, the government committed to ensure all of its decisions which may affect the Great Barrier Reef are underpinned by the principles of ESD, including the precautionary principle, in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan. By ensuring the principles of ESD are to be applied in all decisions under the Water Act, the government will ensure it meets its commitments to the World Heritage Committee, and that management of resource industry water users is in accordance with ESD.

✓     We support the repeal of the water development option

– which was to provide large scale water users (such as the Integrated Food and Energy Development proposing to extract 550,000ML of river water – more than Sydney Harbour) with a guaranteed right to water for their project prior to full environmental impact assessment.

✓     We support the repeal of the power to deregulate water use

– the LNP government proposed to provide government with the power to designate that water use from some watercourses would not require a licence. This Bill repeals that discretionary power and ensures that water use from all watercourses will require a licence whenever currently necessary.

How to get your submission in:

Guidelines for making a submission can be found here. Submissions should be sent to:

Email
ipnrc@parliament.qld.gov.au

Post
Research Director
Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee
Parliament House
George Street
Brisbane Qld 4000

Submissions close 4.00pm Friday 18 December 2015.

Nature Conservation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015: submissions due Monday 30th November

27 November 2015

Submissions on the Nature Conservation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, are due this Monday 30th November. This Bill amends the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and other legislation.

Read EDO Qld’s full submission here.

Here are some of our key points for submissions to the Bill:

1.      We support the reinstatement of the conservation of nature as the sole object of the NC Act and the other proposed amendments that take measures to restore the protection previously afforded in the legislation for protected areas.

We recommend that further amendments are undertaken to fully restore the cardinal principle to the NC Act and effectuate it through the appropriate management of Queensland’s National Park estate. These further amendments are provided in points 4 and 5 here.

2.      We recommend that the principles of ecologically sustainable development, as enshrined in the Commonwealth Government’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (1992), should be properly reflected in the NC Act.

3.      We support the amendments to improve public participation in the management of our protected areas.

We recommend that further amendments are required to greatly improve public participation overall in decision making in the NC Act and thereby improve transparency and accountability in the management of our protected areas.

4.      Special management areas (controlled action) should be removed from the NC Act. The allowance of manipulation of national park tenure areas confuses and detracts from the cardinal principle. Existing special management areas (controlled action) could be removed from national park tenure and instead become conservation parks or national park (recovery). At very least special management areas (controlled action) should be clarified so that this designation can only be used for managing threats to a national park tenure and not for development or inappropriate activities.

5.      We recommend the removal of reference to ecotourism facility from section 35 of the NC Act, and that no avenue for tourist resorts to be established within national parks is provided.

6.      We recommend the alignment of the classes of protected areas to the IUCN protected area management categories, or at least the reintroduction of wilderness areas, World Heritage management areas and international agreement areas.

Submissions should be addressed to the:

Agriculture and Environment Committee

Parliament House

Brisbane Qld 4000

Email: aec@parliament.qld.gov.au

Further guidelines on making a submission are available here.

If you need an extension of time to finalise your submission, call the Qld Parliament Agriculture and Environment Committee on 07 3553 6662 or email aec@parliament.qld.gov.au.

Subscribe

To subscribe to our eNewsletter sign up here.