Last Updated: December 1, 2016

Law Reform

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

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

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

30 November 2016

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

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

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

How to make a submission

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

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

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

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

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

Our analysis of the DA rules

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

Suggested key points of note include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related topics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 November 2016

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

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

BRISBANE, 24 JANUARY

SUNSHINE COAST, 25 JANUARY

GOLD COAST, 30 JANUARY (registrations open soon!)

TOOWOOMBA, 1 FEBRUARY (registrations open soon!)

These seminars are an opportunity to access:

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

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

Related topics

Planning: have your say on Development Assessment Rules, by 19 December (30/11/2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDO Qld supports Chain of Responsibility Guidelines

23 November 2016

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

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

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

Send your comments on the draft guideline to DEHP at:

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

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

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

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

10 November 2016

The Queensland Parliament last night passed both the:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact James Lorenz, 0400 376 021

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

7 November 2016

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

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

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

Here, we bust some of the myths!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 November 2016

URGENT – ACTION REQUIRED TODAY, OR TOMORROW AT LATEST

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

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

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

Let them know:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 October 2016

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerald Arends, Director, Pegasus Legal (YouTubeSoundCloudPDF)

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

Further reading

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

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

Planning reforms update. Important new instruments opening for comment!

26 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background on the recent planning reforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft SEQ Regional Plan released. Have your say by 3 March 2017!

26 October 2016

UPDATE: To help you with your submissions, the EDO Qld is partnering with the Qld Department of Planning to put on a series of free seminars in February. To be kept informed, subscribe to our email newsletter here.

The draft South East Queensland (SEQ) Regional Plan has been released and is open for comment until midnight on Friday 3 March 2017. Read more…

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

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

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

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

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

Key elements EDO Qld would like to see come through the review to create a new SEQ Regional Plan are, amongst other things:

  • stronger mapping which locks in certain vulnerable environmental areas and corridors as protected from being developed; and
  • to ensure that it reflects and is based on the detailed understanding of the region’s natural assets which we now have.

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

You can also attend one of the Department of Planning’s “talk to a planner” sessions. These will be one-on-one sessions with a planner who can answer your questions, held across SEQ throughout November and December. Register your interest…

Also – important planning instruments have been released and are currently open for comment. The Development Assessment Rules are open for comment until 19 December (find out more), and the State Planning Policy, Planning Regulation, and State Development Assessment Provisions are open for comment until 10 February (find out more) . Make sure you have your say!

How to lodge a submission

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

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

You may lodge your submission in several ways.

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

Background

Planning: have your say on Development Assessment Rules, by 19 December (30/11/2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 October 2016

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

Download EDO Qld’s submission template here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

What is the law around resource water use currently?

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

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

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

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

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

How did the LNP Government seek to change this law?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the current government proposing around resource water use?

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

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

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

This new Bill proposes to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download EDO Qld’s submission template here.

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

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

Examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 August 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 August 2016

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

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

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

James & slides

 

 

Department of Planning presentation

 

 

Revel & slides

 

 

EDO Qld presentation

 

 

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

What’s next?

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

26 August 2016

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

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

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

Need assistance with your submission?

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

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

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

Take your submission one step further!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seek inspiration from our recent community seminar

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

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

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

– Gerald Arends, Director, Pegasus Legal (YouTubeSoundCloudPDF)

Take the survey

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

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

22 July 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday 22 August, Toowoomba.

Tuesday 23 August, Brisbane.

Tuesday 30 August, Sunshine Coast.

Each seminar will be a conversation between

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background information on water in Queensland

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

4 July 2016

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

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

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

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

Read a transcript of the hearing here.

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

Read our statement here.

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

Read our analysis of the Committee’s report.

Background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 July 2016

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

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

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

    –  Reversal of onus of proof

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

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

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

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

    –  Offsets

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

    –  Self-assessable codes being review

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

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

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

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

    –  Recommendation 1

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

    –  Recommendation 2

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

–   to improve the accuracy of vegetation mapping, and

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

    –  Recommendation 3

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

    –  Recommendation 4

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

    –  Recommendation 5

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

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

3 June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 May 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes on the good and bad features of the Bill

The good:

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

The bad:

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

Nature conservation reinstated as the primary goal of national park management

11 May 2016

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

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

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

Background:

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

Summary of our submission:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chain of Responsibility puts Queensland taxpayers ahead of slippery corporates

22 April 2016

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

22 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For background information on the Bill, see here.

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

22 April 2016

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

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

BACKGROUND:

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

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

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

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

Some of the key features in the Bill are:

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

Case study example: Queensland Nickel Yabulu Refinery

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

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

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

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

Retrospective elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

18 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key points we suggest you could include in your submissions:

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

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

Download the presentation slides from our presenters here:

How to make a submission

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

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

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

Submissions must be:

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

Submissions must include:

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

For more information see:

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

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

18 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key points we suggest you could include in your submissions:

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

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

Download the presentation slides from our presenters here:

How to make a submission

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

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

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

Submissions must be:

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

Submissions must include:

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

For more information see:

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

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

5 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submissions should be directed to:

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

Postal address:

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

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

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

Support objection rights being fully restored! Submissions due 8 April

4 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submissions close 4.00pm Friday 8 April 2016

Send your submissions to:

Email:    ipnrc@parliament.qld.gov.au

or

Post:

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

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

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

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

30 March 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the key features in the Bill are:

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

Case study example: Queensland Nickel Yabulu Refinery

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

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

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

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

Retrospective elements

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

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

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

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

Get your submissions in by Thursday 31 March 2016

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

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

Written submissions should be sent by post to:

Research Director
Agriculture and Environment Committee
Parliament House
BRISBANE QLD 4000

or by facsimile to: 07 3553 6699

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

See: Guide to making submissions.

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

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

 

The urgent issue of vegetation protection in Queensland

18 March 2016

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

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

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

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

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

BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 March 2016

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

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

Sign the petition …

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

17 March 2016

tpp-blog-photo-large

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

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

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

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

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

4 March 2016

tpp-blog-photo-large

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

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

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

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

Submissions for this inquiry can be lodged online here.

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

26 February 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill important step towards return of community objection rights

23 February 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 February 2016

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

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

Need help? You can also use our submission template.

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

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

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

Brisbane, Monday 18 January.

EDO Qld presentation

Department of Planning presentation 

Gold Coast, Tuesday 19 January.

EDO Qld presentation 

Sunshine Coast, Wednesday 20 January.

EDO Qld presentation

Toowoomba, Thursday 28 January.

EDO Qld presentation

More resources

Key Planning Terms

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

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

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

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

28 January 2016

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

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

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

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

Submissions close this Friday 29 January.

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

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

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

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

13 January 2016

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

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

 

 

Qld planning reforms: supporting instruments – seminars

5 January 2016

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

You did? Good! But please keep reading.

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

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

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

 

Brisbane, Monday 18 January.

EDO Qld presentation

Department of Planning presentation 

 

Gold Coast, Tuesday 19 January.

EDO Qld presentation 

 

Sunshine Coast, Wednesday 20 January.

EDO Qld presentation

 

Toowoomba, Thursday 28 January.

EDO Qld presentation

 

More resources

Key Planning Terms

Department of Planning slideshow

Department of Planning survey

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

17 December 2015

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

Let the Parliamentary Committee know:

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

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

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

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

✓     We support the repeal of the water development option

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

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

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

How to get your submission in:

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

Email
ipnrc@parliament.qld.gov.au

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

Submissions close 4.00pm Friday 18 December 2015.

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

27 November 2015

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

Read EDO Qld’s full submission here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submissions should be addressed to the:

Agriculture and Environment Committee

Parliament House

Brisbane Qld 4000

Email: aec@parliament.qld.gov.au

Further guidelines on making a submission are available here.

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

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.