Last Updated: August 30, 2016

Law Reform

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

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!

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)

– 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.

Report gets it wrong; community has right to protect natural wonders

18 November 2015

A Senate committee report that backs law changes removing the community’s right to challenge mining projects shows a lack of respect for Australians and the country’s judicial system, Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland (EDO QLD) CEO Jo-Anne Bragg said.

The Australian Environment and Communications Legislation Committee’s report released today backs the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standing) Bill 2015, which would severely restrict the rights of community members and groups to challenge matters of national environmental significance.

“EDO Qld is deeply concerned the Federal Government still plans to put coal mining ahead of community and the environment by repealing section 487 of the EPBC Act,” Ms Bragg said.

“How can they recommend changing this law when most of the 292 submissions to this inquiry from hardworking Australians opposed them?

“Section 487 of the EPBC Act, which environmental law expert Dr Chris McGrath has shown has been used to challenge less than 0.5% of developments, enables the community to stand up and ensure our environmental laws are enforced and complied with.

“If the law is not complied with, it is useless to protect the environment we love – our Great Barrier Reef, our endangered species and our internationally significant wetlands.

“Our client Australian Conservation Foundation is challenging the Federal Government’s approval of the Carmichael coal mine because it was unlawful and the government must be held to account.

“As a leading environmental law office, it is our responsibility to help ACF enforce the law to protect our Reef and vulnerable species.

“If the law is changed, this right is removed and the Federal Government will show a lack of respect for both the judicial system and the rights of the community.

“EDO Queensland maintains standing is important for people to protect the environment and ensure government is accountable under the law.”

To date, more than 4,000 people have signed EDO Qld’s petition asking Attorney-General George Brandis to say no to changing the EPBC Act.

Scorecard: Queensland planning bills not up to scratch

13 November 2015

A new scorecard for Queensland reveals proposed new planning laws would be worse for the Queensland community and the environment than the planning laws in place under the Bligh government in 2012.

The scorecard, prepared by Environmental Defenders Office Qld (EDO Qld) and Queensland Conservation Council (QCC), comes after Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning Jackie Trad tabled the Government’s Planning Bill 2015 and two related bills in Queensland Parliament late Thursday.

The LNP Opposition also has draft planning laws that will be up for consideration by parliament at the same time as the Government’s planning bills[1].

EDO Qld solicitor Revel Pointon said the scorecard was designed to help the community make sense of complex planning laws and revealed Queenslanders were not getting the first-class planning framework they deserved.

“We compared both the Government and the Opposition bills to see how they compared to planning laws in place under the Bligh and Newman governments.

“The QCC/EDO Qld scorecard assessed all the planning laws against four key indicators: protection of nature; support for community participation in planning; promotion of accountability and transparency; and whether they provide certainty to the community.

“The scorecard findings reveal the Opposition planning bills would be the worst outcome for Queensland, but disappointingly the current Government’s proposed laws are not much better.

“There are serious accountability and transparency shortfalls in both the Government’s and the Opposition’s proposed new planning and development assessment laws, mainly due to too much flexibility surrounding decision-making that tends to favour developers’ interests over the community.

“The current Government is clearly better on community involvement in planning and development assessment, in particular proposing to restore rules in the Planning and Environment Court that will protect the community from the threat of massive costs.

“However, the Government’s bills are only marginally ahead of the Opposition Bills on the other three measures.

“We are particularly concerned the government has decided to continue with its single assessment system – SARA – which weakens the role of specialist departments such Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

“If the Deputy Premier wants planning based on the best science, we need our specialist departments to have a strong decision making role in planning and assessment decisions.

“We need strong, clear planning legislation to protect the environment for the future and to protect the community’s right to have their say on development that affects the places that matter to them,” said QCC planning spokesperson Karen Robinson.

“However both sets of planning laws will further entrench the presumption of development approval by weakening controls on code assessable applications.

“They also reduce the community’s rights to oppose development that does not comply with local plans and planning schemes,” Ms Robinson said.

“We are already seeing rising discontent in the community, particularly in south-east Queensland, as people wake up to find 15 and 20 storey apartment buildings approved where plans allowed just 6 and 12 storey.

“At the same time, scarce parkland and important koala habitat is being removed from protected zones and made available for development.

“People tell us they believe the planning system is broken, yet if the community is hoping any of the proposed new planning laws will fix this they are going to be seriously disappointed.”

[1] The Planning and Development (Planning for Prosperity) Bill 2015 (and two associated bills) were tabled in June as Private Members Bills by Shadow Treasurer Tim Nichols.

Scorecard

BACKGROUND

The scorecard is based on an analysis of the following pieces of legislation and draft laws:

  • Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) – as it was in late 2011 before the election of the Newman government
  • Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) – in it’s current form including amendments made before the election of the Palaszczuk government
  • Planning and Development (Planning for Prosperity) Bill 2015 – tabled by the Opposition in June 2015 and currently “on hold” awaiting consideration by the Parliamentary Committee.
  • Planning Bill 2015 – tabled by the Government on 12 November 2015.

SCORECARD COMPARISON SUMMARY

1.    Protecting Nature

Ecological sustainability: The Opposition bills scored lowest with only token mention of ESD and no mention at all of climate change. Changes to SPA c2015 to remove concurrence agency status for specialist departments and master planning provisions, have reduced nature protection particularly for coastal protection from development. Concurrence agency status has not been returned under either the Opposition’s or the current government’s proposed frameworks. Both versions of SPA and the Government bills scored higher against the Opposition bills as they have stronger definitions of ecologically sustainable development (ESD). In the two SPA bills planning schemes and regional plans must include mechanisms to demonstrate how they will work toward achieving ESD. None of the instruments provide for climate change adaptation. The two SPA bills ensure infrastructure planning sets aside adequate areas for open space, recreation and environmental protection at a reasonable cost to local government and the community.

2.    Community Involvement in Decision Making

Public notification: The Opposition bills once again scored the lowest on community involvement in decision making. Public notification times are not included at all in the Opposition bill and are instead proposed to be included in separate “Rules” document (not yet provided) that can be easily changed. Public notification times in SPA c2011 for complex developments were reduced under SPA c2015, and these changes continue in both the Opposition and Government’s proposed bills. The Government bill makes provision for regulations to be made for different notification timeframes, but it is uncertain whether this will be a return of the longer notification provisions previously under SPA c2011. No trigger is provided for complex developments that would previously have had 3+ concurrence agencies, as under SPA c2011.

Public access to information provisions – under both versions of SPA all information that is required to be made public is listed in the Act itself and cannot be changed outside parliament. The Opposition bills refer to the information list being provided in separate “rules” but don’t provide these for scrutiny. While the Government bills also propose listing accessible information in separate rules, a draft has been provided for scrutiny.

Objection and appeal rights: All four instruments include community and individual rights to object to development and to appeal against a bad decision in court. Under both SPA c2011 and the Opposition framework however there is a risk of the community group or individual having to pay their own costs as well as the costs of the developer if they lose the appeal. The Government Bill returns the rule that each party pays its own costs for development appeals, as under SPA c2011.

3.   Open, Accountable & Transparent

Creation and amendment of planning instruments: The community and the environment are best served when planning schemes are regularly reviewed, include a strategic framework for meeting the community’s vision, and measures or indicators that can be used to evaluate how well the plan has performed. It is also best practice to consult with the community ahead of developing a new planning scheme to ensure community aspirations are identified and incorporated. Both SPA c2011 and c2015 included these kinds of requirements for local planning schemes but both the Opposition and Government draft bills have very minimal requirements in the main legislation. For the two bills the main planning scheme guidance is to be provided in regulations or guidelines however no draft regulation has been provided with the Opposition bill.

Compensation: Both versions of SPA include compensation provisions for “back zoning” but sets certain limitations on these. The Opposition bills increase State and local government’s exposure to compensation claims in some circumstances. The Government Bills propose to change the provisions that in previous legislation removed compensation liability if a change was made to reduce the risk from “natural events” if the risk could not be “substantially reduced” by imposing conditions prior to the “adverse change”, claiming this will make it easier for local governments to manage changes to development rights where risk (e.g. from increased climate related hazards).

Ministerial powers: With regard to the extent of discretionary power, the Opposition bill gives the Minister almost unfettered authority, including not providing the need to seek representations on proposed call ins. The Government bill reinstates some of the provisions removed in SPA c2015 and the Opposition bill, but does not include all the checks and balances that could be found in SPA c2011.

Assessment system: The proposed assessment systems in both the Opposition and Government bills are supposed to deliver a simplified assessment system however it is much less clear and is less accountable than the assessment system, in both versions of SPA, known as IDAS. Also changes made to regulations during the previous term of government mean that SPA c2015 as well as both draft bills retain the State Assessment Referral Agency (SARA), giving the planning department and minister sole decision-making powers that may override specialist agencies such as the environment and heritage department. In addition both the draft bills allow for delegation of assessment manager and referral agency roles to “any person” with virtually no checks and balances, making the systems far less accountable. Other proposed changes to terms used for types of assessment and how these are decided are likely to be confusing to the average person and downplay the potential effects of some types of development.

4.   Provides Certainty

Concurrence agency power: Of significant concern – changes to the SPA regulation removed the concurrence power of specialist agencies to recommend either mandatory conditions on development or a refusal. Under SPA c2015 – SARA (mentioned above) the planning department is the sole state assessment agency and is not required to publish the agency’s advice or give reasons if the advice is not followed. These arrangements are retained in both the Opposition bills. The Government bills retain SARA and do not return concurrence agency power to the specialist departments, however the assessment manager must publish reasons for a decision.

Assessment processes uncertain: The Government bill provides that code assessment may provide for an approval even if none of the assessment benchmarks are met by the application. A further major reduction in certainty for the community arises when development can be approved that does not comply with the planning scheme. Both SPA c2011 and c2015 include a test that this can only happen where there are “sufficient grounds” and these must be made explicit.

Planning framework overruled by other Acts: Since the 1970’s all Queensland governments have retained a separate system of assessment outside the main planning framework for projects of state significance to be “fast-tracked”. In 2011 the Urban Land Development Authority (ULDA) also existed as a fast-tracking mechanism for some forms of development to by-pass the SPA, ostensibly to achieve affordable housing outcomes. In 2012 the ULDA was superseded by the Economic Development Queensland (ECQ) Act and the option for certain areas to be designated as Priority Development Areas or PDA’s became the mechanism for by-passing the 2015 amended version of SPA. These alternate assessment systems have become progressively less accountable over time, with minimal public objection opportunities and no appeal rights. PDAs are islands of development that are not required to be integrated with the planning schemes or the general state planning laws. In addition to ECQ the Newman government enacted the Regional Interest Act that removed most regional planning from SPA. The rules that allowed for a contained urban “footprint” in SEQ were removed and other rules weakened.

EDO Qld welcomes strong Reef protections in new Ports Bill

12 November 2015

EDO Qld welcomes the passing of the new Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015 by the Queensland Parliament today.

Laudably, the Act provided strong restrictions on sea-dumping and port expansion in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, EDO Qld solicitor Revel Pointon said.

“In conjunction with the Commonwealth restrictions on sea dumping, this Act will help ensure that dredge spoil from new port developments cannot be dumped near the Reef as was proposed in the Abbot Point Port expansion,” she said.

“Not only does the Act protect our Reef, but our pristine coastline areas of the Fitzroy Delta and Cape York will also be better protected from port industrialisation under this Act.

“EDO Qld has been working with the Queensland Government to secure effective amendments to the Sustainable Ports Development Bill 2015 to ensure this Act provides the best protection for our Reef.

“We congratulate members of Parliament for ensuring Queensland meets its international commitments to stop sea dumping and restrict capital dredging and port development in Queensland waters of the Reef World Heritage area.

“We also acknowledge the tremendous efforts made by the community, and groups such as WWF and AMCS, in their determined campaigning to help ensure our Reef gets the best protections that it deserves.

“We acknowledge there is still a lot of work to do to ensure our Reef is able to recover from the significant impacts it has suffered under poor management to date.

“In particular we need to reform state planning laws to better regulate development in coastal areas and high risk Reef catchments, to ensure areas of ecological significance and water quality are protected and sediment is controlled.

“We also note some compromises were made in the Act to allow for port development at the Cairns Port.

“We hope that those seeking to develop the Cairns Port, including the Queensland Government, ensure the development is undertaken responsibly and with minimal impact to the Reef.

“We look forward to continuing our law reform work with the Government to ensure it meets all of the commitments under the Reef 2050 Plan.”

Planning reforms poised to enter third stage

9 November 2015

Queensland’s planning reforms are poised to enter their third stage, with draft legislation set to be introduced to Parliament in the November sittings.

CAIRNS: find out what the reforms mean for you, your community and your environment, at our community seminar on Wednesday 18 November. More information here.

Once the bills are introduced, they will go to the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee for review and scrutiny. The community will have further opportunity to have their say as part of this review process.

An exposure draft of the proposed new planning framework was open for public comment from 10 September to 23 October. EDO Qld’s analysis of the exposure draft revealed that while some nuances of the current framework have been simplified, and Court costs rules partly restored to previous ‘own costs’ rules, the environment and community rights have not come out better and in many ways are actually worse off.

We produced three tables analysing how the proposed framework delivers on key areas of concern:

  1. Protecting nature
  2. Community participation in decision making
  3. Open, transparent, accountable planning framework

In summary, our key concerns have been:

  • The principles of ‘ecological sustainable development’ are not adequately provided for or defined;
  • Climate change and the environment only get tokenistic mention;
  • Development assessment provisions are now provided in Rules which can be easily changed at the whim of any government;
  • More flexibility is given to local governments in deciding content of local planning instruments, leading to inconsistency between local government areas in planning approaches;
  • State Assessment Referral Agency is being maintained – meaning our State specialist departments only have ‘advice’ agency status and cannot require refusal, approval or conditions as they previously could;
  • Costs orders may be made against third parties who take enforcement action under the Act. This was not provided for in SPA prior to LNP changes and does not follow through on Labor’s pre-election commitment; and
  • No detail in the Act provided prescribing the types of documents that must be made accessible to the public – these are provided in the Regulation which is easier to change.

We have to ask – why overhaul a planning framework if it is not going to be better than its predecessor? Particularly on essential components of planning – environmental protection and community engagement?

The Department has stated that they will release a consultation report this month, outlining how the bills (as introduced to Parliament) have changed (from the exposure draft) as a result of this public submission process.

EDO Qld will also be producing a review of the bills as introduced, to help you with submissions to the Committee reviewing the Bills.

We hope that they’ve listened to the community’s concerns.

Get your submissions in on the draft planning framework by Friday 23 October, 6pm

21 October 2015

Help our Government improve Qld planning before the Bills are finalised for introduction to Parliament

EDO Qld template submission available here, or draft your own, but make sure you get your concerns heard!

The Government released an exposure draft of the new planning framework on September 10 for public comment.

We are sorry to report that this new planning framework in no way improves community participation nor environmental protections in planning and development decisions; in fact in many ways it is a step backwards.

Now is the time to have your concerns heard on the new proposed framework – prior to final drafting and introduction to Parliament.

Get your submissions in by 6pm, THIS FRIDAY 23 October 2015 – or if that’s a push, get it in ASAP, so that your concerns can help in the re-drafting of the framework prior to going to Parliament.

You can make a submission in the following ways:

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.

Also, send your submission to your local Parliamentarian and inform them of your concerns. Talk to as many people as you can!

Some submission tips provided by the Department:

  • Your submission does not need to be long or complex. Your opinions, your reasons for them and your suggestions are the most important parts.
  • State clearly your view and reasons for it.
  • Provide examples where you can.
  • Say how your concerns might be addressed and your reasons for it.
  • Provide references to any factual data or examples.
  • Group your points under the relevant section or chapter and specify e.g. Chapter 6, Section 2.4 or simply… Plan Making
  • While submissions tend to focus on what ‘issues’, please take a moment to share what improvements or positive aspects you feel exist in the planning bills.
  • You can make your submission in a language other than English. The Department will arrange for a translation.

Planning law may not seem exciting, but think of it this way – development is the biggest impact humans have on our environment and what shapes our communities. Our planning laws provide the fundamental tools in regulating the impact of development; they provide environmental protections as well as the right for the community to have their concerns heard around bad development proposals – We need to get this right!

As summarised previously, our key concerns with this planning framework are:

  • The principles of ‘ecological sustainable development’ (ESD) are not adequately provided for or defined – with uncertainty as to whether key ESD principles, such as the precautionary principle, will even be included;
  • Climate change and the environment only get tokenistic mention;
  • Public consultation times on development applications have been reduced, compared to the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) provisions prior to the Newman government’s changes;
  • State Assessment Referral Agency (SARA) is being maintained – our State specialist departments only have ‘advice’ agency status and cannot require refusal, approval or conditions as they previously could;
  • SARA can still make decisions that are inconsistent with the State development assessment provisions – which provide the criteria for assessment of matters of State interest;
  • Costs orders may be made against third parties who take enforcement action under the Act. This was not provided for in SPA prior to LNP changes and does not follow through on Labor’s pre-election commitment; and
  • No detail in the Act provided prescribing the types of documents that must be made accessible to the public – these are provided in the Regulation which is easier to change.
  • Development assessment provisions are now provided in Rules which can be easily changed at the whim of any government;
  • More flexibility is given to local governments in deciding content of local planning instruments, leading to possible inconsistency between local government areas in integrating consideration of environmental values and planning approaches;
  • Major changes to development applications are not necessarily required to be re-notified; and
  • Too many discretions are provided – including to allow non-compliance with public notification requirements, to allow public notification prior to an information request being finalised, and to provide exemptions from development assessment. Discretions, coupled with the ultimate power of SARA, open up our planning system to corruption. Where there is corruption in planning, the environment and community rights are the first to suffer.

It’s not too late to help our Government turn this framework into ‘Australia’s best planning system’. 

Stand up for the environment and community rights in planning – get your submission in!

TUES 20 OCT: SPECIAL EXTRA LAWJAM on proposed new planning framework

19 October 2015

Did you miss our last LawJam on this topic? We’re convening a special extra session Tuesday 20 October for regional environmental group representatives in town for the Resources Community Roundtable – and anyone else who couldn’t come!

We will be joined for this LawJam by James Coutts, the Department’s Executive Director of Planning Services, to answer your questions and hear your concerns. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Queensland’s planning reforms have entered their second stage, with the release 10th September of an exposure draft of the proposed new framework. And there’s still a lot of work to be done! While some nuances of the current framework have been simplified, and Court costs rules partly restored to previous ‘own costs’ rules, the environment and community rights have not come out better and in many ways are actually worse off!

Submissions are due by 6pm on Friday 23 October. This is a crucial time to have your say. Contact us for our easy-to-use sample submission.

Our recent LawJam on the exposure draft of the proposed new planning framework heard from:

We have produced three tables analysing how the framework delivers on key areas of concern (1) Protecting nature, (2) Community participation in decision making and (3) Open, transparent, accountable planning framework.

In summary, our key concerns are:

  • The principles of ‘ecological sustainable development’ are not adequately provided for or defined;
  • Climate change and the environment only get tokenistic mention;
  • Development assessment provisions are now provided in Rules which can be easily changed at the whim of any government;
  • More flexibility is given to local governments in deciding content of local planning instruments, leading to inconsistency between local government areas in planning approaches;
  • State Assessment Referral Agency is being maintained – meaning our State specialist departments only have ‘advice’ agency status and cannot require refusal, approval or conditions as they previously could;
  • Costs orders may be made against third parties who take enforcement action under the Act. This was not provided for in SPA prior to LNP changes and does not follow through on Labor’s pre-election commitment; and
  • No detail in the Act provided prescribing the types of documents that must be made accessible to the public – these are provided in the Regulation which is easier to change.

What can you do?

1. Contact us for our easy-to-use template submission.

2. Make sure you get your submission in on time with all the important points covered!

3. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions on this important topic: adminqld@edoqld.org.au

We have to ask – Why overhaul a planning framework if it is not going to be better than its predecessor? Particularly on essential components of planning – environmental protection and community engagement?

We have a fantastic opportunity here to create positive changes in how planning is undertaken in Queensland – let’s make sure we make the most of it!

URGENT: Statutory right to groundwater for mines proposed to commence!

1 October 2015

What is proposed?

The loss of your public rights of appeal on underground water licences for mining companies. This amendment affects a significant amount of our underground water.

The proposed Alpha and Kevin’s Corner Coal Mines alone would involve taking an estimated 176GL, or 70,400 Olympic swimming pools worth of underground water over 30 years.

Currently mining companies have to apply to get a water licence, the application is publicly notified and then submitters (for example graziers or community groups concerned about water) have the right to appeal the decision on the water licence to the Land Court.[1]

These community rights would be lost if the proposed amendments are commenced. Our current Ministers want this removal of rights to go ahead!

We support the positive changes WROLAA introduces – including obligatory make good agreements (although with some improvements needed), cumulative impact management, adequate monitoring and reporting obligations – but let’s not lose community appeal rights with respect to water licences.

Why is this bad?

  • We need full public scrutiny of the impacts of major mines on groundwater. Removing water licence requirements seriously undermines that scrutiny. The decisions made by the Land Court in cases like Alpha Coal [2] and other Galilee Basin mines assume there will be later public scrutiny of an application for a water licence and the potentially major impacts on groundwater. And it’s simply unfair to change the rules when projects are part way through assessment and when citizens have made decisions as to whether to participate based on an existing array of rights.
  • Even for development applications for shopping centres, our legal system provides the community with submission and appeal rights to the Planning and Environment Court for independent merit assessment. Impacts to our precious groundwater by large scale mining activities deserve the same scrutiny against community concerns.
  • It’s contrary to Labour statements, as quote above. This State Government has further committed to open, accountable, transparent governance. This move is contrary to those commitments; silencing those concerned with impacts to groundwater in Queensland.

TAKE ACTION: Help save our groundwater resources!

1. Spread the word – share this news and why it is bad with your networks.

2. Speak to your local parliamentarian about this issue and tell them what you think.

3. Write to Minister Lynham and Minister Miles and tell them your concerns, even a short email will do:

Hon Dr Anthony Lynham

Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines

PO Box 15216, CITY EAST QLD 4002

statedevelopment@ministerial.qld.gov.au

Hon Dr Steven Miles

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef

GPO Box 2454, BRISBANE QLD 4001

environment@ministerial.qld.gov.au

4. Keep an eye on EDO Qld Facebook, Twitter or website for updates.

Whose idea was this?

By way of background, in late 2014 the LNP government introduced the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (Qld) (WROLAA) which proposed to drop public rights of appeal on water licences and instead provide the mining industry with a statutory right to take associated underground water (water that is necessary to remove for the extraction of the actual resource)[3].  Prior to being elected ALP opposed this idea, committing to:

“Repeal the Newman Government’s water laws which will have a detrimental effect on the Great Barrier Reef catchment systems and allow for over allocation of Queensland’s precious water resources.”[4]

And further stating:

“The Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 takes the errors of the Murray-Darling Basin and seeks to repeat them by facilitating the over-allocation of water for large ‘coordinated projects’ and mines. This legislation passed while 75 per cent of Queensland was drought declared and landholders are struggling to find water.

The Opposition also does not support make good arrangements being dependent on a resource company coming to the conclusion that they have impacted on a landholders’ water bore. If water is extracted on an unsustainable basis from the Great Artesian Basin it will be lost forever.

Only a Labor Government will ensure the sustainable management of our State’s water resources based on the principles of ecologically sustainable development. By repealing this legislation a Labor Government will restore the fundamental legal right to object and say no to a nearby mining development.”[5]

Apparently their position has changed. We can’t allow this to go ahead.

[1] Water Act, s206(4)(i) and Water Regulation, Sch 2, allows a holder of a mineral development licence or mining lease (or listed entity) to apply for a water licence. Water Act, s208 provides for public notice of water licence applications (limited exceptions to public notification in s209).  For people who have made a properly made submission there are rights of internal review (s862(1)(a)) and appeal to the Land Court (s877(1)(b)).

[2] Hancock Coal Pty Ltd v Kelly & Ors and Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (No. 4) [2014] QLC 12.

[3] WROLAA s11 proposes to insert Chapter 12A Part 1 in the Mineral Resources Act which includes s334ZP ‘Entitlement to use underground water’ and s334ZR associated authorisation. WROLAA s10 proposes to delete s235(3) of the Mineral Resources Act which states there is no entitlement to water.

[4] Queensland Labor, Saving the Great Barrier Reef: Labor’s plan to protect a natural wonder, January 2015.

[5] Letter Tim Mulherin former Labor MP to Kate Dennehy, Lock the Gate, 22 January 2015.

Planning: speaker presentations from community seminar

30 September 2015

Our recent LawJam on the exposure draft of the proposed new planning framework heard from:

Revel Pointon, Law Reform Solicitor, Environmental Defenders Office Qld.

See Revel’s presentation …

Paul McDonald, General Manager – Business Development and Innovation, SEQ Catchments.

See Paul’s presentation …

Associate Professor Phil Heywood, Adjunct Associate Professor in Urban and Regional Planning, QUT.

See Phil’s presentation ….

Click here for a summary of EDO Qld’s concerns, and blow-by-blow analyses of how the proposed new framework stacks up in three critical areas.

If you want to help create a world class planning framework for Queensland, make sure you get your submission in by 6pm on Friday 23 October.

If you would like help drafting your submission, watch this space for our submission template, or email us on edoqld@edoqld.org.au and ask to be notified when this is available.

New planning framework: much more work to be done, for community rights and for the environment

20 September 2015

Queensland’s planning reforms have entered their second stage, with the release 10th September of an exposure draft of the proposed new framework. And there’s still a lot of work to be done! While some nuances of the current framework have been simplified, and Court costs rules partly restored to previous ‘own costs’ rules, the environment and community rights have not come out better and in many ways are actually worse off!

This is a crucial time to have your say!!! Don’t miss our free community forum on the new Queensland planning framework, Tuesday 29 September at South Bank. RSVP Now!

We have produced three tables analysing how the framework delivers on key areas of concern:

  1. Protecting nature
  2. Community participation in decision making
  3. Open, transparent, accountable planning framework

In summary, our key concerns are:

  • The principles of ‘ecological sustainable development’ are not adequately provided for or defined;
  • Climate change and the environment only get tokenistic mention;
  • Development assessment provisions are now provided in Rules which can be easily changed at the whim of any government;
  • More flexibility is given to local governments in deciding content of local planning instruments, leading to inconsistency between local government areas in planning approaches;
  • State Assessment Referral Agency is being maintained – meaning our State specialist departments only have ‘advice’ agency status and cannot require refusal, approval or conditions as they previously could;
  • Costs orders may be made against third parties who take enforcement action under the Act. This was not provided for in SPA prior to LNP changes and does not follow through on Labor’s pre-election commitment; and
  • No detail in the Act provided prescribing the types of documents that must be made accessible to the public – these are provided in the Regulation which is easier to change.

Submissions are due by 6pm on Friday 23 October.

Come to our LawJam to learn more! Tuesday 29 Sept, 6.00pm, Griffith University South Bank!

What can you do?

  1. Make sure you get your submission in on time with all the important points covered! Stay tuned for further updates and our template submission.
  1. Come to our free LawJam on 29 September to learn more and ask any questions you need.
  1. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions on this important topic: edoqld@edoqld.org.au
  1. And make sure you go to the ‘meet the planner’ event near you, being held by the Queensland Government:

x

We have to ask – Why overhaul a planning framework if it is not going to be better than its predecessor? Particularly on essential components of planning – environmental protection and community engagement?

We have a fantastic opportunity here to create positive changes in how planning is undertaken in Queensland – let’s make sure we make the most of it!

RSVP NOW for our free community forum, Tuesday 29 September at South Bank.

Have your say on planning reform, using our submission template

24 July 2015

On 25 May 2015, the Queensland Government released the Better Planning for Queensland’ directions paper (“the directions paper“). This paper comes after the suite of planning bills introduced by the previous government lapsed upon the calling of the state election in January 2015.

The directions paper proposes to repeal the current Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) and replace it with a new regime that consists of three separate bills: a main planning bill, a bill establishing the jurisdiction of the Planning and Environment Court, and a general bill incorporating amendments to other Acts.

Other than some references to ‘sustainability’, the directions paper does not place sufficient emphasis on environmental protection, with no reference to biodiversity or ecosystems at all.

It is essential to get involved in these early consultation stages so that your concerns are addressed and considered prior to drafting.

Submissions are due 15 October 2015, however we highly recommend you get your submission in as soon as possible to ensure your concerns are taken into consideration in the preparation of the legislation.

We would encourage all EDO supporters to make a contribution to the discussion on the proposed planning reforms. We have prepared a submission template to assist you in this process.

Simply:

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

For more background, please see here.

Community objection rights to mines on major projects restored

17 July 2015

EDO Qld welcomes Parliament’s decision today to restore landholder and community objection rights to mines on major projects.

The State Development and Public Works Organisation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 was passed in Parliament on 17 July 2015.

The objection rights to the Land Court for environmental impacts of the New Hope Stage 3 mine expansion for EDO Qld’s rural client Oakey Coal Action Alliance will now be restored.

This means the people of Oakey Coal Action Alliance, who oppose the Acland mine, will have their voices and concerns heard in a fair court of law.

We commend the State Government for delivery on an election promise and restoring community objection rights on major mining projects.

While EDO Qld has fought hard for these changes, other community organisations such as Lock the Gate Alliance have also tirelessly argued the importance of these rights.

The changes were the first step in restoring public objection rights on all mining projects across Queensland.

Looking ahead, more legislation needs to be passed to fully restore public objection rights as this Bill only dealt with ‘coordinated’ or major projects.

These rights are crucially important in the public interest so the costs and benefits of projects with huge impacts can be debated and tested in the independent Land Court.

This ensures the best environmental, economic and social outcomes from such projects.

Let’s not forget that mining resources are the public property of all Queenslanders.

 

EDO Qld welcomes proposed restoration of community objection rights to mines

16 July 2015

EDO Qld welcomes the State Government’s introduction of a Bill in Parliament yesterday that could see landholder and community objection rights to mines restored on major projects.

However, the State Development and Public Works Organisation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 needed to be passed and implemented quickly for it to help certain communities, EDO Qld CEO and Solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said.

“This Bill means meeting the State Government’s pre-election commitment to restore objection rights stripped away by the previous LNP government,” Ms Bragg said.

“However, this Bill is just the first step in restoring public objection rights on all mining projects across Queensland,” Ms Bragg said.

“If passed within time, this Bill will reinstate objection rights to the Land Court for environmental impacts of the New Hope Stage 3 mine expansion for EDO Qld’s rural client Oakey Coal Action Alliance, and for others.

“Looking ahead, more legislation needs to be passed to fully restore public objection rights as this Bill only deals with coordinated or major projects.

“EDO QLD has constantly advocated for restoration of community objection rights.

“These rights are crucially important in the public interest so the costs and benefits of projects with huge impacts can be debated and tested in the independent Land Court.

“This ensures the best environmental, economic and social outcomes from such projects. Let’s not forget that mining resources are the public property of all Queenslanders.

“For example, the Adani Carmichael mine case shows that the proponent’s application material, and the assessment process under the Coordinator General, were both flawed.

“This Land Court case was needed to expose the serious adverse risks to ancient freshwater springs and exaggerated jobs forecasts by Adani.

“This would not have been possible without objection rights for these massive projects.

“We await urgent passage of the bill.”

Here’s why community participation in planning is vital to protecting your environment

7 July 2015

Paragliding-over-Rainbow-Beach-in-Queensland-AU

Greg Wood and fellow members of the Rainbow Beach community took action when a proposed development threatened their local environment.

It was a lengthy and exhausting fight over planning law that eventually took the group to court against professional developers of a proposed resort and residential development at Rainbow Beach in 2013.

Just a short swim from Fraser Island, Rainbow Beach on the Cooloola Coast is the last remaining expanse of natural open space and intact environment on South East Queensland’s mainland coast.

Animals and plants of many species that have disappeared in other parts of Queensland survive at Rainbow Beach because there has been no fragmentation by development or overpopulation.

The proposed development raised concerns relating to flora and fauna biodiversity, coastal processes, erosion and storm surge, bushfire management, waste water re-use and ground water contamination.

The proposed development was also linked to other indirect impacts on the local environment, and climate change.

After 35 days of evidence, the Queensland Planning and Environment Court delivered its decision.

Ultimately the Court found the proposed development would adversely impact on flora, fauna and biodiversity values to an unwarranted extent.

The court also found it would consequently conflict with the provisions of various planning documents and was not supported by sufficient economic, community or planning need.

Due to this court decision, and the brave and persistent actions of Greg and his fellow environmental defenders to stand up against big companies for their local community and environment, Rainbow Beach continues to be free of high-density development and is a true refuge from the ever-accelerating growth of South East Queensland.

Our planning laws are the foundation of regulating development in Queensland. They must be strong, prepared through broad consultation across the state, and they must have the environment’s needs represented.

Over the next two weeks EDO Qld will be holding free community seminars across South East Queensland on proposed new planning laws, your rights and the protection of ecology:

Don’t forget to RSVP!

Have your say on the future of planning in Queensland!

25 June 2015

Our planning laws are the foundation of regulating development in Queensland. They must be strong, prepared through broad consultation across the state, and they must have the environment’s needs represented.

EDO Qld has been working hard to ensure Queensland planning laws receive adequate community consultation. Many of our clients are facing well-resourced developers and – as you can imagine – there is often a major power imbalance in having their concerns heard and addressed.

ALP ‘Better Planning for Queensland’ directions paper

On 25 May 2015, the Queensland Government released the Better Planning for Queensland’ directions paper (“the directions paper“). This paper comes after the suite of planning bills introduced by the previous government lapsed upon the calling of the state election in January 2015.

The directions paper proposes to repeal the current Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) and replace it with a new regime that consists of three separate bills: a main planning bill, a bill establishing the jurisdiction of the Planning and Environment Court, and a general bill incorporating amendments to other Acts.

Legislation will be drafted and released for consultation in late 2015, with the new legislation expected to commence in mid-late 2016.

Other than some references to ‘sustainability’, the directions paper does not place sufficient emphasis on environmental protection, with no reference to biodiversity or ecosystems at all.

It is essential to get involved in these early consultation stages so that your concerns are addressed and considered prior to drafting. Public comment on the directions paper is now open until 31 July 2015 via the Queensland Government website.

LNP Private Members’ Planning Bills

On 4 June 2015, the shadow planning spokesperson Tim Nicholls introduced a number of recycled LNP planning bills that had lapsed upon the calling of the state election in January 2015. These bills are separate from, and not related to, the ALP planning reform proposal in the directions paper.

The bills limit community consultation and override local governments. The Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee is currently seeking submissions on these private members’ bills:

The committee invites submissions from all interested parties addressing any aspect of the bill. Guidelines for making a submission to a parliamentary committee are available here: Guide to making a submission. Closing date for written submissions is Monday 13 July 2015 by 4.00pm.

Want to know more? Come along to our next LawJam: ‘Planning Reform and the Community’

EDO Qld is holding a number of free community seminars (LawJams) to critically review the proposed new planning legislation from the perspective of good planning, community rights and the protection of ecology:

  • Brisbane: University of Queensland, Thu 9 July 2015 at 6pm – RSVP
  • Sunshine Coast: Lake Kawana Community Centre, Wed, July 15 at 6pm – RSVP
  • Gold Coast: Robina Community Centre, Thu 16 July 2015 at 6.30pm – RSVP

Admission is free but seats are likely to fill fast. Don’t forget to secure your place!

State Government needs to move quickly to reinstate vegetation management laws

24 June 2015

EDO Qld have been standing up for more effective controls on land clearing and working with The Wilderness Society to stop the shocking bulldozer and chain clearing at Olive Vale station on Cape York Peninsula.

Last week the Wilderness Society cautiously welcomed news that a massive land clearing operation had been temporarily halted. This pause followed inspections by state and federal environment department officials, as well as extensive media coverage of the devastating clearing.  EDO Qld assisted the Wilderness Society with pressing officials to act.

It is understood that the landholder is now “voluntarily referring” the matter to the Federal Department of Environment, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The clearing at Olive Vale was only possible because of changes to the Vegetation Management Act by LNP in 2013. 

The new state government has accepted that the permit for clearing at Olive Vale was improperly granted under state law, but has failed to stop the clearing and appropriately refer it the federal government.

“The pause in clearing has only happened because of the work of conservation groups and the media,” said Dr Tim Seelig, The Wilderness Society Queensland Campaign Manager.

“We remain frustrated that Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt been sitting on his hands rather than using his powers to shut this clearing down for good. We alerted his department about the issues at Olive Vale in early March, and again in April, May and June.

“There are threatened species on the property which should have triggered a federal process to assess impacts but this did not happen. He effectively allowed the clearing to continue himself.

“Now, finally, there will be an assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but today’s announcement is an embarrassment to Minister Hunt and his department,” he said.

The Queensland Government needs to move quickly to reinstate strong land clearing controls across the state, as it promised in the recent state election. 

Help us put pressure on the state government to meet their pre-election promise to reinstate vegetation management laws by making a donation to: www.edoqld.org.au/donate

You can also sign the Wilderness Society’s petition to ‘Stop the Dozers’ here.

Help us restore objection rights for people like Bruce and Annette

23 June 2015

Curries

Queensland graziers Bruce and Annette Currie.

Bruce Currie and his wife Annette are true Aussie farmers who have battled the odds over the years, surviving floods and recent droughts. Now the Curries face their biggest challenge yet.

The family runs a cattle property in central Queensland and fear that the impacts of nearby coal mining on the groundwater running through their property would destroy their business, their livelihood and their home.

To make matters worse, changes to community objection rights last year mean, legally, they might not even get a say on the matter.

“The only one who benefits (from the changes) is the mining industry,” Mr Currie said.

“Communities and individuals who have pride in their area, take responsibility for the stewardship of our country and want to be involved in decisions should be commended, not punished by having their rights taken away.

“The stewardship of any country is the responsibility of the whole community and certainly not just the government of the day,” he said.

Last year the former state government significantly reduced legal rights for landholders and the general community by removing community rights to object to the biggest mines.

Prior to October 2014, the law allowed any person or group to object to an environmental authority for a mine, and then have their objection heard in open court.

Under changes to the State Development Public Works Organisation Act 1971, which were rushed through late at night without notice, the Coordinator General has the power to stop objections from being referred to the Land Court. This was despite evidence before the relevant parliamentary committee of the importance of the rights, as well as evidence from the Land Court and from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection that the objections process had not been used for vexatious purposes.

Other changes to the law were also passed that limit objection rights to mining leases – but these have not yet come into force. If they do, the community’s right to have their say on these mines will be curtailed even further.

It’s not too late to stop these changes being implemented. EDO Qld is currently putting pressure on the state government to restore your rights, but we need your help!

We are currently drafting a proposed Bill to present to the Queensland Government that will restore mining objection rights and ensure that no potential objectors have lost their rights since the changes were made.

Together, we can restore community objection rights for people, like our friends Bruce and Annette. YOU CAN HELP by making a donation to www.edoqld.org.au/donate 

Have your say: protection of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

23 June 2015

EDO Qld has been working with WWF and AMCS on the Sustainable Ports Development Bill 2015 (“the Ports Bill“) which was introduced into the Queensland Parliament earlier this month.

The purpose of the Ports Bill is to: “provide for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area through managing port-related development in and adjacent to the area”.

The Ports Bill is just one tool in the implementation of the ALP pre-election Reef commitments and Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

An overview of the Bill is available here

We congratulate the government on implementing a number of its commitments to protect the Reef through the Ports Bill. While the protections the bill puts in place are laudable, there are a number of omissions, including some notable ALP commitments, which must be addressed to maximise the utility of the Ports Bill in protecting the Great Barrier Reef. In broad summary these include:

  1. A ban on transhipping, as promised;
  2. The ban on offshore dumping of dredge spoil should be fully implemented, as promised;
  3. Restrictions on dredging and development of port facilities must be extended to Great Barrier Reef Marine Park;
  4. Dredging and dumping for other types of development on the Great Barrier Reef coastline should be restricted;
  5. Protection of the Greater Fitzroy Delta must be ensured, as promised
  6. Master planning should be improved;
  7. Accountability and transparency in governance must be implemented, as promised;
  8. Compensation should be more limited than provided for in the bill.

Have your say with our easy-to-use template

The committee is currently seeking public submissions on the Ports Bill. Before 4:00pm Thursday 2 July 2015, simply:

1) Download our TEMPLATE.

2) Add your details and opinions;

3) Send to ipnrc@parliament.qld.gov.au;

4) Let us know you made a submission, but please do not distribute your submission until advised by the committee.

Queensland, planning for changes to planning

19 June 2015

Our planning laws are the foundation of regulating development in Queensland. They must be strong, prepared through broad consultation across the state, and they must have the environment’s needs represented.

EDO Qld has been working hard to ensure Queensland planning laws receive adequate community consultation. Many of our clients are facing well-resourced developers and – as you can imagine – there is often a major power imbalance in having their concerns heard and addressed.

ALP ‘Better Planning for Queensland’ directions paper

On 25 May 2015, the Queensland Government released the Better Planning for Queensland’ directions paper (“the directions paper“). This paper comes after the suite of planning bills introduced by the previous government lapsed upon the calling of the state election in January 2015.

The directions paper proposes to repeal the current Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) and replace it with a new regime that consists of three separate bills: a main planning bill, a bill establishing the jurisdiction of the Planning and Environment Court, and a general bill incorporating amendments to other Acts.

Legislation will be drafted and released for consultation in late 2015, with the new legislation expected to commence in mid-late 2016.

Other than some references to ‘sustainability’, the directions paper does not place sufficient emphasis on environmental protection, with no reference to biodiversity or ecosystems at all.

It is essential to get involved in these early consultation stages so that your concerns are addressed and considered prior to drafting. Public comment on the directions paper is now open until 31 July 2015 via the Queensland Government website.

LNP Private Members’ Planning Bills

On 4 June 2015, the shadow planning spokesperson Tim Nicholls introduced a number of recycled LNP planning bills that had lapsed upon the calling of the state election in January 2015. These bills are separate from, and not related to, the ALP planning reform proposal in the directions paper.

The bills limit community consultation and override local governments. The Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee is currently seeking submissions on these private members’ bills:

The committee invites submissions from all interested parties addressing any aspect of the bill. Guidelines for making a submission to a parliamentary committee are available here: Guide to making a submission. Closing date for written submissions is Monday 13 July 2015 by 4.00pm.

Want to know more? Come along to our next LawJam: ‘Planning Reform and the Community’

EDO Qld is holding a number of LawJams, one in Brisbane, one on the Gold Coast and one at the Sunshine Coast on the new planning legislation proposed within the directions paper. We will also be discussing community concerns and issues that need to be addressed, as well as the private members’ bills proposed by the LNP.

Admission is free but seats are likely to fill fast. Don’t forget to secure your place!

‘Sustainable Ports Development Bill’ introduced into Qld Parliament today

3 June 2015

EDO Qld welcomes the Government’s Sustainable Port Development bill to protect the Great Barrier Reef from dredging, dumping and port expansion, announced in Parliament last night.

The Bill is a great start in Labor’s attempts to implement many of the key commitments made to save the Reef, which have also been enshrined in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan – an agreement between the Australian and Queensland government to demonstrate to the World Heritage Committee that we are doing everything we can to protect our precious Reef.

The Bill laudably introduces many important promised initiatives, including:

  • prohibiting sea dumping of capital dredge spoil from port development;
  • limiting capital dredging to priority ports of Abbot Pt, Townsville, Gladstone and Mackay-Hay Point; and
  • limiting port development to the 12 existing ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline.

The Bill contains some good, clear rules banning and restricting dredging dumping and port expansion, however, significant further action needs to be taken to protect the reef and meet commitments made in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

Some key commitments that have not been included in the Bill are:

  • no ban on trans-shipping in the GBR Marine Park;
  • no ban on sea dumping of all capital dredge spoil – this complete ban was provided by the Commonwealth Government over the GBR Marine Park, leaving our Government to ensure the ban was in effect for the Queensland jurisdiction. Our Government needs to step up and match that ban;
  • no ban on capital dredging and port development for non-port related development, such as marinas; and
  • no ban on capital dredging and port development in the GBR Marine Park – the Commonwealth Government hasn’t agreed to implement this ban, and Queensland hasn’t implemented this ban through this Bill, contrary to their promise.

EDO Qld believes many of the omissions from the Bill are due to the Government’s concerns they are unable to regulate in Commonwealth-governed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park waters.

“This is a complex and arguable point of law, but a commitment is a commitment and the reef must be protected,” EDO Qld CEO and Solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said.

“Either Minister Hunt needs to step up and ensure these prohibitions are implemented through Commonwealth law or the Queensland Government needs to find other ways of implementing them,” she said.

UNESCO’s draft decision on the status of the Reef World Heritage Area requests that Australia and Queensland rigorously implement all of its commitments of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

“Australia is already on probation from UNESCO World Heritage Committee and the eyes of the world are on us. The Government must act swiftly to address these legislative issues before we report back in 18 months or risk an ‘in-danger’ Reef listing,” Ms Bragg said.

EDO Qld feels the Bill is a good first step, but it is just a first step and significant further action needs to be taken to truly ensure our Reef is able to recover from the impacts it has endured and prosper well into the future.

“EDO Qld lawyers will continue to work with the Government and organisations like WWF and Australian Marine Conservation  Society to closely examine the bill to ensure rules are effectively enforced and evaluate whether or not improvements are needed for enforceability, transparency and accountability,” said Jo-Anne Bragg.

Read EDO Qld’s full submission here.

Have your say: Landholders’ Right to Refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2015

25 May 2015

The Landholders’ Right to Refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2015 is now open for public comment until Friday 29 May 2015. This private member’s Bill, introduced by Greens Senator Larissa Waters, gives landholders the right to block mining or coal seam gas (CSG) operations on their property.

Under the Bill, Australian landholders have the right to refuse the undertaking of gas and coal mining activities by corporations on their land without the prior written authorisation of each person with an ownership interest in the land.

The Bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report.

Have your say by using our easy template to lodge a quick submission:

Before Friday 29 May 2015, simply:

1) Download our TEMPLATE SUBMISSION;

2) Add your details and opinions;

3) Copy-and-paste into an email and send to ec.sen@aph.gov.au;

4) Let us know you made a submission, but please do not distribute until advised by the Committee.

Together we can reshape Queensland’s weakened environmental laws. Together we can restore community objection rights. Before June 30, please make a tax-deductible donation to our special end-of-financial-year appeal: www.edoqld.org.au/donate.

Federal Government push to strip environmental organisations of their tax deductibility status

8 May 2015

The federal government is secretly planning a big new tax!

It’s not of the fossil fuel industry, which over the past six years received an average yearly subsidy of $2.9 billion.[1]  It’s not on the huge multinational companies that avoid Australian tax through offshore tax havens. [2]

…It’s on you! [3]

By taking away your tax deduction on donations to non-profit environmental organisations the federal government is taxing you for trying to make the world a better place. [4]

The House of Representatives Environment Committee has launched an inquiry into the official register of environmental groups that hold tax-deductible status. You can have your say addressing the terms of reference before 21 May 2015.

Have your say by using our easy template to lodge a quick submission:

Before 5pm, Thursday 21 May 2015, simply:

1) Download our TEMPLATE SUBMISSION;

2) Add your details and opinions;

3) Copy-and-paste into an email and send to environment.reps@aph.gov.au;

4) Let us know you made a submission, but please do not distribute until advised by the Committee.

Lodging a submission online is preferred. Submissions can also be emailed directly to the committee secretariat.

Committee Secretary
House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 4580
Fax: +61 2 6277 4424
environment.reps@aph.gov.au

Update on new Ports and Planning laws

23 January 2015

With the Queensland Government now in caretaker mode, the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee no longer exists. In effect, the inquiries and consultation on the recently introduced Ports and Planning Bills have ceased. EDO Qld suggests that submitters hang on to draft submissions as the Bills could be reintroduced in the new Parliament and referred to a successor committee.

Public comment on the Draft Priority Port Development Area (PPDA) Planning Guideline is still open for public comment until 30 January 2015.

New Port Development Legislation for the Great Barrier Reef

In March 2012, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee expressed serious concerns about increased coastal and port development affecting the Reef. In 2014 the State Government released a Ports Strategy which is meant to set the overall framework for port development for the next 10 years. You can read EDO Qld’s submission on the draft Ports Strategy here.

Ports Bill 2014

The proposed (now lapsed) Ports Bill 2014 contains a prohibition on port development outside existing ports at Gladstone, Hay Point/Mackay, Abbot Point and Townsville. On the surface this appears promising, but it has many caveats.

The many exemptions mean that the proposed ports legislation is unlikely to satisfy UNESCO’s concerns, due to the following factors:

  • There is no prohibition on the dumping of dredge spoil in Qld waters of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, where over 80% of all World Heritage Area dumping takes place.
  • The prohibition on port development outside existing ports is highly discretionary and port development can still occur at a Qld Minister’s discretion. Furthermore, the public cannot challenge development in port areas. This means that port development could still occur in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
  • There is a potential that existing port boundaries will be enlarged with ‘future investigation areas’.
  • It does not requires an Environment Management Framework for the port’s master plan, only for the development scheme within the master plan.
  • A proposed prohibition on dredging and port development outside established port boundaries will not affect existing proposals that will have major impacts, such as the Wongai development in Cape York. The proposal also will not affect current approvals that have major impacts, such as the Curtis Island LNG processing facility and port expansion.

This uncertainty means that the WHC Mission Report’s specific request that no developments be permitted which create individual, cumulative or combined impacts on the OUV of the GBR, has been ignored.

For more details on the lapsed Ports Bill, see here.

Public comment on the Draft Priority Port Development Area (PPDA) Planning Guideline is still open for public comment until 30 January 2015. Have your say here.

EDO Qld will provide a comprehensive analysis of the Ports Bill shortly. To stay up to date with the latest planning law news, subscribe here.

New Planning Legislation

Since 2013, EDO Qld has strongly advocated for transparent and public consultation on proposed new planning legislation. On 28 November 2013, the Queensland Deputy Premier disagreed with EDO Qld’s calls for a public discussion paper on the major proposed reforms of Queensland’s planning legislation.

In September 2014, the Queensland Government released draft Bills for public comment. EDO Qld produced fact-sheets based on the September 2014 draft legislation to help explain the changes and what they will mean for you and your community. The facts sheets cover: Community Appeal RightsLoopholes; Transparency and Accessibility and Ecologically Sustainable Development.

In November 2014, the Queensland Government formally introduced the Planning and Development (P&D) Bill 2014 and the Planning and Environment Court (P&E Court) Bill 2014. If passed, the Bills will repeal the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. Several of the proposed changes are significant and will affect all planning and development in Queensland.

EDO Qld will provide a comprehensive analysis of the Bills shortly. To stay up to date with the latest planning law news, subscribe here.

It appears the new legislation would give local councils more power over which types of development will be open to public notification and appeals, as councils could choose to reduce public participation rights.

For an overview on the September 2014 proposals, read EDO Qld’s submission here. In total, 224 submissions were received and a consultation report was developed. The Parliamentary Committee was in the process of scrutinising the planning bills, until the Queensland State Election was called on 6 January 2015 and the Queensland Government entered ‘caretaker mode’.

For more information on caretaker conventions, see here.