Last Updated: August 15, 2017

.What’s Happening

Queensland must protect our clean air – tougher regulation of air emissions needed

15 August 2017

EDO Qld says stronger action is needed to protect Queenslanders from poorly regulated air emissions, particularly from coal mines, coal trains and power stations.

Currently Queenslander’s living around coal mines, power stations and coal train lines are substantially in the dark about what they are breathing in. While steps are being taken to address coal dust breathed in by coal mine workers, more action is needed to protect our communities also impacted by coal dust every day.

  • Regulations around air emissions are typically not strong; conditions are often drafted such that proponents are only required to monitor their emissions on complaint from the community or on request by the Department, as occurred for the New Acland Coal mine recently under scrutiny in a Land Court mining objection hearing (decision here).
  • There are very few emissions intense industries subject to requirement to provide live reporting demonstrating the real time air emission peaks, with monitoring stations provided, for example along rail lines, frequently only providing an average of emissions data. Real time meteorological and ambient air quality monitoring data should be available online for the community to access anytime. Currently Mt Isa mines is the only mine in Queensland we are aware of that provides ongoing real time air monitoring.
  • Queensland has not adopted agreed National Environment Protection Measure standards in relation to fine particulates over 1.5 years after they were introduced. Existing environmental authorities are not being updated to reflect standards as they increase.
    • For example, the Land Court noted in the New Acland Coal mine Land Court objection decision that: I am concerned that NAC’s current EA has not been updated by EHP with respect to the PM10 24 hour average as prescribed in the EPP (Air) in 2008. I am concerned that EHP has allowed NAC to operate under PM10 24 hour average limit of 150ug/m3, despite the limit in the EPP (Air) being 50ug/m3 since 2008 and in the NEPM since 2003. This inaction by EHP is quite concerning and leads me to have no confidence that EHP will act to amend NAC’s EA after they adopt the NEPM PM10 annual standard into the EPP (Air).” (para 634 of the decision)
  • There is inadequate measurement of air emissions along coal train lines and ports, impacting many Queenslander’s residing, working and travelling along these train lines and around the port.
  • There is insufficient monitoring and regulation of fugitive methane emissions, a dangerous greenhouse gas, especially by the unconventional gas industry for which fugitive methane emissions can escape along the entire production line.

The Land Court held in the New Acland Stage 3 Land Court decision that:There is emerging evidence that short term and long term exposure to particulate matter particularly PM2.5 particles, is dangerous to health and there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure to these particles. Every person whether they be a mine worker or their spouse or their children or their grandparents, or people who rent properties from NAC or APC should not be exposed to unsafe levels of particulate matter.” (para [598] of the decision)

The Court recommended stricter conditions around PM10 and PM2.5 air emissions.

EDO Qld supports the recommendations provided by the report of Environmental Justice Australia ‘Toxic and terminal: How the regulation of coal-fired power stations fails Australian communities’ which highlights the inadequacies in regulating air emissions from power stations particularly, available here and included below.

Key points of concern for coal-fired power stations:

  • Coal-fired power stations emit more than 30 toxic substances. Power stations are Australia’s biggest single source of fine particle pollution, oxides of nitrogen and sulfur dioxide.
  • Australia has an old, inefficient and excessively polluting fleet of power stations. Licences frequently don’t require best practice or installation of readily available pollution controls.
  • Queensland environmental authority conditions for power stations do not prescribed a limit on mercury, despite the mercury emissions from coal-fired power stations being the second biggest man-made source in Australia.

What Queenslander’s need for clean air:

  • Immediate adoption of National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) Standards in the Environment Protection (Air) Policy as binding standards;
  • Immediate audit of all coal mines, coal-fired power stations and coal train lines for compliance with air emissions conditions;
  • Amendment of all environmental authorities to reflect current NEPM standards;
  • New standard conditions which require baseline assessments and continuous monitoring and reporting of all air emissions data in real time online on site, including at coal loading stations and from all power station stacks, and along transport lines – do not make compliance dependent on complaints from the community;
  • Ensure conditions of all approvals are actively enforced through ensuring sufficient resources and attention are provided to compliance and enforcement activities;
  • That all power stations are subjected to an emissions reduction program for mercury, PM2.5, PM10, SO2 and NOx to reduce their toxic pollution in line with Best Available Techniques to reduce the toxic health burden imposed on the community;
  • That Queensland’s Energy and Environment Ministers undertake an audit to assess the costs of decommissioning and rehabilitating Queensland’s coal-fired power stations, consistent with best practice, and impose bonds or financial assurance requirements on all coal-fired power stations, their ash dams and associated infrastructure;
  • That in light of the level of toxic emissions released by all coal-fired power stations regardless of their age, the Queensland Government commits to not build, finance or approve any new coal-fired power stations in Australia and instead invest in the development of renewable energy technologies to progressively replace the state’s aging power station fleet.

Transparency of reliable, timely information around air emissions is essential for the community to know what is impacting their health, and to take steps to avoid these impacts.

EDO Qld continues our work to secure stronger, more transparent regulation of air emissions in Queensland.

Watch the seminar: EDO Qld planning LawJams

11 August 2017

Recently EDO Qld held another round of planning LawJams co-hosted with the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning on the new Planning Act 2016 framework which commenced on 3 July 2017.

These LawJams provided an opportunity for the community to hear an overview of the planning framework, including key changes, from the Department and a synopsis of key changes and rights relevant to community involvement in planning decision making from EDO Qld.

We have uploaded to the EDO Qld website the slides from the evening, as well as the recording of the Brisbane LawJam for those who missed it, or who want a rehash.

If you have any questions about the new framework and how you can use it to engage in planning and development and protect the environment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with EDO Qld.

EDO Qld's Revel Pointon

You can access the Departments website explaining the new framework here.

Also, the maps behind this framework are available here: (you can subscribe to mapping updates through this link too).

Thank you to all those who attended the event and contributed to the engaging discussion around the new framework.

If you have any questions about the new framework and how you can use it to engage in planning and development and protect the environment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with EDO Qld.

New: South East Queensland Regional Plan

For those in South East Queensland, the new SEQ Regional Plan, ShapingSEQ, has been released and is now in effect since Friday 11 August 2017. See EDO Qld’s snapshot for more information.

New SEQ Regional Plan released – paving way for strategic assessment for SEQ

11 August 2017

The new South East Queensland (SEQ) Regional Plan 2017 ‘ShapingSEQ’ was released and put into effect on Friday 11 August 2017 – available here on the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning’s website.

This regional plan provides the long-term direction for development in the SEQ region for the next 25 years. It replaces the SEQ Regional Plan 2009-2013.

This plan intends to provide for an increase in SEQ’s population by 2 million people in the next 25 years. This is provided for through a desired future settlement pattern which includes designation of land into either urban footprint, rural living area or regional landscape and rural production area. Each of these land use categories provides various forms of restriction around development.

The regional land use areas are shown on the SEQ regulatory maps, and on the department’s interactive mapping system.

Brief overview of ShapingSEQ with respect to protecting SEQ environmental values:

  • The new regional plan has provided for new elements and strategies around koala conservation and water sensitive cities (see p.82) not provided for in the draft SEQ regional plan which was out for comment earlier this year.
  • The new plan provides for more ‘measures that matter’ relevant to environmental values compared to the draft plan, including additional measures around koala habitat, regional biodiversity network, agricultural land and clarified reference to community greenspace.
  • The ‘preferred future’ goals for the measures that matter remain vague, with no quantified goals to strive towards. The ‘preferred future’ for koala habitat is that there is no net loss of habitat; this is weaker than the requirement in the State Planning Policy which requires both the conservation and enhancement of koala habitat extent and condition.
  • The inter-urban break for Moreton Bay-Sunshine Coast region has reportedly been increased between the draft regional plan and the final version.
  • Outcomes of the Koala Expert Panel are due to come out later this quarter, and are intended to be reflected in amendments to the regional plan once provided.

The laws that put the regional plan into effect – Regulatory provisions and empowering instruments

This plan is supported by regulatory provisions that provide more legal strength behind the regional plan, now found in the Planning Regulation 2017. The Department has provided a guideline to assist understanding of the regulatory provisions here: ShapingSEQ: SEQ regulatory provision guideline.

The regional plan is also put into effect through local government planning schemes, which must reflect the regional plan, and other planning instruments, such as the State Infrastructure Plan which is currently being reviewed.

Departmental factsheets:

Keep an eye out for further background papers which provide the policy justification for the new regional plan, which the Department advises will be available online in September 2017.

ShapingSEQ to pave way for Strategic Assessment for SEQ under the EPBC Act

The Queensland Government is currently in discussions with the federal Department of Environment and Energy to prepare a strategic assessment for the SEQ region under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act). We understand the new SEQ Regional Plan will form a basis of the strategic assessment.

If undertaken well, a strategic assessment can allow better consideration of cumulative impacts on matters of national environmental significance across the region considered. However, if undertaken poorly, this can remove a check and balance provided through referral and assessment under the EPBC Act criteria of each project.

By undertaking a strategic assessment, a region-wide landscape scale assessment will be undertaken which considers future likely development of the SEQ region. Depending on the scope of the strategic assessment, potential impacts of future development to matters of national environmental significance in the SEQ region will be assessed as part of the strategic assessment. The strategic assessment may provide a report with conditions specified future development must comply with to be considered to fulfil the EPBC Act requirements, in lieu of each project requiring referral and assessment under the EPBC Act. If a development type is not considered as part of the strategic assessment, the development will have to be referred under the EPBC Act for assessment as far as it may have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.

EDO Qld will be keeping you up to date with all opportunities to have your opinions, knowledge and concerns heard with respect to the strategic assessment as these opportunities arise.

EDOs submission: Tax Deductible Gift Recipient reform

3 August 2017

Read our submission online, and get your own submission in by Friday 4 August 2017.

EDOs of Australia support a strong and efficient charity and DGR sector that recognises the wide range of activities that contribute to local and systemic environmental outcomes in Australia and internationally. This includes environmental law and support services, advocacy, research, information, education, overseas capacity-building and local conservation work.

Read the full submission from EDOs of Australia.

This submission outlines:

  • Why charitable status and tax concessions are important to EDOs across Australia;
  • How environmental charity status and tax concessions provide public benefits;
  • Responses to Questions in Treasury’s Tax Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) Reform Discussion Paper.

Overall we recommend that the Australian Government and Treasury:

  • Support a strong and efficient charity and DGR sector by maintaining existing taxation concessions for charities and donors;
  • Reject the proposal that all environmental organisations must divert at least 25-50% of tax-deductible donations to ‘environmental remediation works’, and related limitations targeting environmental organisations;
  • Continue to recognise the wide range of activities that contribute to local and systemic environmental outcomes in Australia and internationally – including environmental law and support services, advocacy, research, information, education, overseas capacity-building and local conservation work;
  • Support the ACNC to assist and regulate all charities (and many DGRs); and
  • Take opportunities for minor, well-planned changes to increase administrative efficiency and maintain the high level of public trust in DGRs and charities.

We must work faster to protect our Reef says the World Heritage Committee

6 July 2017

The World Heritage Committee has called for accelerated efforts to save our Great Barrier Reef, particularly with regard to water quality and has noted with serious concern the coral bleaching and mortality suffered by the Reef in 2016 and 2017. The failure to implement stronger land clearing regulation was also noted with concern, the WHC called for increased efforts to ensure that this, and other required legislation to protect our Reef, are put in place.

The Committee has called for Australia to submit an overall report on the state of conservation of the Reef by 1 December 2019. The Report is to demonstrate the ‘effective and sustained protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and effective performance in meeting the targets established under the [Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan].’ This Report will be considered at the WHC 4t4th session in 2020.

The full details of the Decision are below.

EDO Qld supports the Queensland and federal governments following the Decision of the WHC to assist in the survival of our Reef.

There has been some action taken to address the Reef 2050 Plan commitments, including the commencement of investigations into improving the regulation of water quality impacts; however this action is far too slow to provide the necessary strong, fast assistance to increase our Reefs resilience to dangerous climate change impacts.

Further, the land clearing laws in Queensland remain today substantially the same as introduced under the previous Queensland Government. The attempt at introducing a new Bill to strengthen the laws was unsuccessful, but more can be done to protect our vegetation from unsustainable clearing – such as amendments to the planning framework, declarations protecting sensitive Reef catchments from clearing, and finalisation of the review of the unsustainable self-assessable codes. The federal legislation regulating land clearing impacts to the Reef continues to not be sufficiently enforced by the federal Department of Environment and Energy.

The Queensland and federal governments have still not implemented a climate change emissions reduction target that will ensure we reach the globally agreed commitments in the Paris Agreement.

EDO Qld continues to work for stronger action by the government to ensure the protection of our Reef.

The final decision can be viewed, once uploaded, here.

Draft Decision: 41 COM 7B.24

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.7, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),

3. Welcomes the progress made with the inception and initial implementation of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (2050 LTSP) and the establishment of the Investment Framework, and expresses its appreciation for the significant efforts by all those involved in the implementation of the 2050 LTSP;

4. Strongly encourages the State Party to accelerate efforts to ensure meeting the intermediate and long-term targets of the plan, which are essential to the overall resilience of the property, in particular regarding water quality;

5. Notes with serious concern the coral bleaching and mortality that affected the property in 2016 and 2017;

6. Reiterates its request to the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an overall report on the state of conservation of the property demonstrating the effective and sustained protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and effective performance in meeting the targets established under the 2050 LTSP, linked to the findings of the 2014 and 2019 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Reports, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.

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