Law Reform · Access to Justice

Minister Lynham must keep Land Court integrity, says EDO Qld

24 July, 2015

EDO Qld CEO and Solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg is calling on State Development Minister Anthony Lynham to publicly reject a so-called proposal to put time limits on Land Court cases.

Ms Bragg said the move would not only contradict last week’s restoration of community objection rights to large mining projects, but was also based on no evidence and would limit the court’s ability to provide informed, independent recommendations.

“One week ago we saw the State Government reinstate objection rights for large mining projects in Queensland.

“This was a pre-election promise that acknowledged the rights of citizens to debate and test the costs and benefits of projects with significant impacts on their communities in the independent Land Court.

“Just one week later, there are reports claiming Adani has suspended work on their Carmichael coal mine due to so-called delays in government approvals.

“Now, a Courier Mail article states Minister Lynham intends to take a proposal to the Attorney-General to put time limits on cases in the Land Court.

“There is no evidence to back up allegations of undue delay in the Land Court, and, given I know the Minister values decisions based on evidence I query if perhaps he was taken out of context in this instance.

“For a Government that was elected on an accountability platform, it makes no sense to restrict the Land Court after it only just restored community access to that court.

“I call on Minister Lynham to publicly reject a proposal to put time limits on the Land Court cases."

Ms Bragg said the mining industry’s concerns were unfounded and more likely raised to reduce the independent scrutiny of their projects in the court in light of recent community successes like the Alpha case.

“The Land Court itself told a parliamentary committee there was no evidence to suggest the court's processes were being used to delay project approvals.

"The court process takes a fraction of the time of the overall state approval process. For example, state approval for the Alpha coal project was first sought in September 2008 and when the Land Court process commenced in March 2013 it rapidly proceeded to a hearing in September 2013 followed by a decision in April 2014.

“EDO Qld acknowledges the Land Court must have sufficient time to consider the evidence otherwise its ability to provide informed independent recommendations to the Government will be limited.

“For example, in the objection to the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine heard earlier this year there was five weeks of evidence and 60,000 pages of filed documents for the court to consider.

“Massive mines like this have massive potential impacts and need careful consideration. Hamstringing the time period for the court to consider this material would not be in the public interest.

“Often the mining companies are the ones not ready to proceed, which EDO Qld can certainly attest to.”

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

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