This 2011-12 law reform campaign is a small part of the social justice advocacy EDO has conducted for nearly 20 years on behalf of disadvantaged communities affected by development and resource extraction.
Community groups and farmers contacted EDO for assistance with scrutinizing the environmental impacts of massive coal and gas proposals and for help in making submissions or objections to the proposed mining lease and environmental authority, which contains important conditions on dust and air quality, water quality and vegetation. EDO became aware that in addition to the clients who contacted us, many farmers missed their chance to make submissions or objections and thus their right to go the Land Court due to poor public notification, too short timeframes for submissions and poor public access to information about the application.
EDO Qld then researched and wrote a detailed letter to the Premier on 15 June 2011 detailing case examples on mining and gas processes, seeking specific legislative changes to the Queensland's Environmental Protection Act 1994 and seeking administrative changes to how the Act was administered. Over 2011, we also made submissions on government proposals to amend the Act to slash so called “Greentape”, again using case examples of the fairness and efficiency gained through public access to information and community participation.
Example: Coal Seam Gas June 2011
Current legislation only requires major coal seam gas proposals be publicly notified in one newspaper and farmers can easily miss that notification and their chance to object. The notices often only refer to the name of the Gas field e.g. Ruby not the local place name so again this leads to confusion. EDO proposed changes to make the notification fairer, including that applications for environmental authorities for coal seam gas or mining be placed online at a central government website as urban developments already are. As at August 2011, EDO Qld was pleased to see that the public notices of applications for coal seam gas authorities with links to application documentation were online at the DERM site however for major proposed mines it’s still necessary to ring mining registrars across the state. This is not fair process for affected communities who may miss their vital chance to put in an objection. So EDO will continue this law reform campaign, by speaking with government Ministers and the State opposition to push for fairer processes.