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NQ communities empowered in fight for justice

08 November, 2017

From Mission Beach to Mackay, EDO Qld hit the road with EDO NQ last month to meet with regional partners and community members to empower action on environmental matters that matter.

Hot off the back of a late-October regional tour, EDO Qld solicitor Revel Pointon takes a moment out of her busy schedule to reflect on what issues matter most  to rural Queenslanders - and what actions they can take to address environmental concerns in their areas*.

EDO Qld joined forces with EDO NQ and a bevy of regional partners to empower community members from Cairns to Mackay. Stay tuned Central Queensland, you’re next on the regional tour. Stay up-to-date with upcoming events near your on our dedicated events page.

Why did EDO Qld and EDO NQ host a NQ tour?

Tania Heber from EDO NQ and I went out on the road to find out first hand what the issues are that are facing Far North and North Queenslanders, and to help empower the regional groups and locals as to how to use the law to help protect their environment and communities. We met with local groups and held community education nights in Mission Beach, Townsville, Airlie Beach and Mackay. We hope to visit other areas, including in Central Queensland, in coming months.

What was the feedback given by communities?

We had a great turn out in each of the locations. We were very impressed by the amount of highly engaged, switched on, organised community members already out there actively protecting their area from irresponsible or illegal environmental impacts. The discussions each night were very lively and diverse in the kinds of issues people were facing and seeking legal support around. We are happy that many people have since contacted us to seek further legal information and support on their issues of concern.

What were the main issues raised by each community?

Communities along the Reef coast were concerned about a range of issues from how to protect Cassowaries from dogs and road kills, port and marina developments threatening the precious and vulnerable marine environments of the Reef, the re-development of Lindeman Island resort and potential revocation of national park land, to fighting climate change, mining and gas impacts on groundwater and of course, the Adani Carmichael mine.

Tania and I were lucky to get site visits of Clump Point, an existing jetty in Mission Beach proposed for extended boating infrastructure and a potential marina. Locals Maurice Franklin and Djiru Traditional Owner Leonard Andy, both working with Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation (C4), showed us the sensitive site surrounded by unknown fish habitat and a cultural heritage site for the Djiru people. We learnt that there are significant concerns that the impact assessment on these areas has been inadequate and lacking in transparency, and that the community does not feel meaningfully consulted.

We also visited Ingrid Marker and learnt about the terrible impacts to Cassowaries down Far North Queensland. There are serious inadequacies in the management of rural hunting dogs, threatening both wildlife and humans, Ingrid herself having been attacked in her house, and a whole family of cassowaries having been killed which lived on her property. We also witnessed the inadequate protection of cassowaries from road impacts, where simply putting in a line to prevent over taking along the road with the highest cassowary hits by cars in Australia would make a world of difference in reducing cassowary deaths.

What are the state-wide issues people were most concerned about?

People were clearing worried about the future of the Great Barrier Reef and the completely inadequate action to reduce climate change over multiple governments in Queensland and federally. A lot of people depend on the Reef for their livelihood, and of course Traditional Owners along the Reef coast have spiritual and cultural ties to the Reef. And let’s not forget the amount of tourists who fall in love with our Reef - Australian and international tourists. As Queenslanders, we need to take climate change more seriously or we will be hanging our head in shame as we lose the Reef more and more each year.

There was also a lot of concern about the lack of meaningful community involvement in planning decision making. Queenslanders just don’t feel heard, and are feeling increasingly locked out of development processes, both for local developments and major projects like roads, mining and gas projects. More and more we see development classed as ‘code assessable’ which denies the community the right to raise local knowledge and concerns, and the right to challenge bad decisions in the Court, where projects can be tested on the merits in a place free of politics.

People are also seriously disgruntled about our donations laws, and how favourable decisions can seemingly be bought rather than being properly assessed, and the clear bias in our media outlets.

What can people do if they want to find out more information about these issues?

You can see our slides from the trip, download via pdf here, which give an overview of what we covered in our presentations.  You can also contact either EDO NQ or EDO Qld any time if you have a particular issue of concern, or you want more information on something we talked about.

*EDO Qld promotes changes to law and policy which protect the environment and advance sustainable development. EDO Qld does not support, promote or oppose any particular political party or candidate. EDO Qld respects the democratic right of all citizens to run for elected office in their own time.

Authorised by Jo Bragg, CEO of Environmental Defenders Office Queensland, 8/205 Montague Rd, West End, QLD 4101

 

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

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