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EDO Qld responds to Minister Lynham’s comments in The Courier Mail, 6 November 2015

06 November, 2015

How great would it be if the Land Court, as an independent umpire, were allowed to have the final say?

In response to The Courier Mail article 6 November 2015, 'Miners take aim at green groups ‘stifling’ development with law' (Read the article):

EDO Qld has been in discussions with Dr Anthony Lynham, Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, also proposing the Land Court of Queensland be given the final say in mining objection hearings.

We agree this would be more efficient and provide better certainty for all stakeholders involved.

We note that the reality is very few appeals take four years, the time-frame Dr Lynham was quoted as referring to today’s The Courier Mail. In fact, most are heard within six months.

We agree with the State Government that more resources should be given to Queensland’s Land Court. Another option for consideration is the Planning and Environment Court, as a court with relevant expertise.

The Land Court provides a forum for the community to be heard by an independent arbiter free from politics. It also empowers landholders, providing a more level playing field against highly resourced mining companies.

How great would it be if the Land Court, as an independent umpire, were allowed to have the final say?

Right now we are working with hard-working farmers and local residents of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance, who have lodged an appeal to the expansion of the nearby New Acland Stage 3 mine expansion.

Attacks from mining companies, including claims that the legal process poses ‘risks’ to their projects, are dubious. What do they have to fear from independent scrutiny by the Courts? What about the risk to sustainable farming, healthy communities, our Reef, wildlife and climate?

At present, the Land Court provides a recommendation to two key government parties: the Chief Executive Officer of the Environment Department for the Environmental Authority and the Mining Minister for the Mining Lease.

The Oakey Coal Action Alliance has genuine concerns that the proposed expansion will drain groundwater resources for farmers in the Darling Downs food basin area, as well as further decrease the air quality of local residents who are already exposed to health risks from the project’s coal dust.

These people deserve to have their day in court and it is our responsibility to provide it to them.

We have advocated that the Queensland Government honour their commitment and restore community objection rights to people who oppose mega projects in our state and also smaller projects which can still have major impacts. We also congratulate Dr Lynham for acknowledging the importance of sticking to commitments.

Even recent decisions, such as that in the Alpha Coal Mine Objection, where the Land Court recommended the project be refused outright or go ahead with strict water conditions in order to protect local farmers, shows that without this process, government and projects would not suitably be held to account.

It is important that the integrity and independence of the Land Court is respected and not interfered with by government.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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