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Who We Are

The EDO is a non-profit, non-government Community Legal Centre specialising in public interest environmental law.  Our services include providing community groups and individuals with free legal advice and representation on environmental issues, promoting environmental law reform, and undertaking community legal education. 

Mission Statement

"Empowering the community to protect the environment through law".
Protection of WA's environment by providing individuals and community groups with environmental legal services including advice, education, representation and opportunity to participate in reform of laws affecting the environment. 

    

  MEDIA RELEASE (10 Feb 16)

Environmental Defender Faults Government’s New Biodiversity Law

Perth, WA – EDOWA today released a 36-page white paper recommending against passage of the WA Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2015, at least in its current form.

The Bill, introduced in the Legislative Assembly on 25 November 2015, was touted by Premier Colin Barnett as a "momentous step forward in the conservation of the State's biodiversity" and "a very significant achievement".

EDOWA’s paper strongly disagrees with the Government’s assessment, however. According to the paper, the new law’s touted benefits "are illusory at best – a mirage". While the paper recognises the Bill has some good features (repealing two obsolete laws, substantially increasing potential penalties for violations, providing a process for listing protected or threatened species and ecosystems), according to EDO Principal Solicitor Patrick Pearlman, "the new law takes a giant step back in many other ways".

The Bill, Mr Pearlman said, "gives virtually unfettered discretion to either the WA Environment Minister or DPAW’s CEO in decision-making, leaves both the scientific community and the public out in the cold when it comes to identifying vulnerable species, critical habitat or key threatening processes, gives offenders defences that will likely undermine enforcement efforts, and broadly exempts government and industry from the new law’s reach". "Even worse", Mr Pearlman added, "the Bill appears to promote short-term declines to foster development and permits the Minister to allow species to be taken to the point of extinction". "That’s simply repugnant to any notion of biodiversity conservation", he said.

The paper notes that the new law fails to provide the deterrent of imprisonment that exists under many current laws. "Removing even the threat of jail time for harming highly threatened species is particularly disturbing given the Government’s current efforts to jail peaceful protestors for ‘interfering with lawful activity’", Mr Pearlman said.

Keith Claymore, the paper’s co-author agreed, noting that "the Bill proposes to codify and mandate some programs and processes that been around for many years, but offers little more in the way of actively promoting and advancing biodiversity conservation at a State and bioregional scale". "Significantly absent in the Bill, when compared to other Australian and overseas biodiversity laws, are provisions for a statewide biodiversity strategy or periodic evaluation and reporting on the state and condition of WA’s biodiversity", Mr Claymore added.

"Lack of provisions to establish an independent scientific advisory committee to assist with the future Act’s implementation, and lack of provisions for sandalwood management that reflected best practice standards and ensured sustainable use was of particular concern to us", he said.

EDO’s white paper is being published to encourage informed debate and to ensure the new law isn’t adopted without significant amendments – including allowing citizens to enforce its provisions – and is available at http://www.edowa.org.au/assets/Uploads/Biodiversity-Bill-Review.pdf. The Bill is expected to be debated in Parliament before State elections next year, possibly in this sitting period.

Contact: Patrick Pearlman T: 08 9221 3030 Email: edowa@edowa.org.au

Court Overturns Approval of Roe Highway Ext (16 Dec 15)

Perth, WA – Christmas came early for community activists opposed to the State’s Main Roads WA’s proposed extension of the Roe Highway from Kwinana Freeway (Jandakot) to Stock Road (Coolbellup).  In a decision handed down today, Chief Justice of the WA Supreme Court, Wayne Martin, overturned the WA Environmental Protection Authority’s September 2013 decision to recommend approval of the so-called Roe 8 highway extension. The extension would put a high-speed, limited access freight highway through the middle of the Beeliar Regional Park and would have resulted in what the State conceded were “significant” impacts on critically sensitive wetlands and threatened species of flora and fauna, including 2 species of black cockatoo, the Southern Brown Bandicoot and the Graceful Sun Moth.

Chief Justice Martin concluded that the WA EPA failed to consider its own policies that required the agency to adopt a presumption against approval of proposals that would likely result in significant impacts to critical environmental assets of the State. The Chief Justice also overturned the WA Environment Minister’s July 2015 decision to approve the Roe 8 extension because the Minister’s decision was based on the invalidated EPA decision.

EDOWA applauds the Chief Justice’s decision. EDO originally acted for the community activists seeking review of the State’s decisions, Save Beeliar Wetlands Inc., an incorporated association that has long opposed extension of the highway through the Beeliar wetlands, and Carole de Barre, a local resident of Coolbellup. EDOWA lodged the initial application for review with the Court in September 2015 and undertook initial proceedings until early November 2015, when the 2 applicants decided to retain the law firm of Castledine Gregory and Perth barrister, Henry Jackson, to carry the case forward.

According to EDOWA’s Principal Solicitor, Patrick Pearlman, the decision establishes clearer principles for State decision-making agencies going forward. “Chief Justice Martin made it clear that administrative decision makers have a duty, as a matter of procedural fairness to the public who engage in the agency decision-making process, to follow – and meaningfully apply – their own policies, guidelines and procedures”. “That’s a fundament of good government and the notion that Australia is governed by the rule of law”, he added. “Not only is the Chief Justice’s decision good for the environment – it’s good for government as well”, Mr Pearlman observed.

The Chief Justice’s decision puts the future of the Roe 8 proposal in some doubt. The proposal was expected to cost upwards of $1 Billion, roughly half of which was to come from the Commonwealth government. Contracts to construct the highway were apparently let by the State, which may now have financial consequences if the successful bidder is unable to complete the project. EDO asked Main Roads not to let the contracts, Mr Pearlman noted.

There’s also the question of what happens to the Commonwealth government’s separate approval of the proposal under Federal law. The Commonwealth’s approval was premised on the now invalid EPA report and recommendations.

 

URGENT APPEAL

SAVE WA’s ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDER: DONATE OR JOIN TODAY

For nearly twenty years, the Environmental Defender’s Office WA (Inc.) has provided specialised legal services on public interest environmental law matters to Western Australians for little or no cost.  We’ve been at the forefront of crucial legal fights to protect WA’s unique biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.

The Commonwealth has refused to fund EDOs beyond June 2015.  EDOWA urgently needs your help - NOW.  We cannot continue for long without your help.  

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