Category: Articles

Statement of Strategic Priorities 2017

The EDOWA’s key priorities for 2017 are:

  • State-based action on climate change – we will both identify and promote the pathways for the State to take better account of national and international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This will include scrutiny of environmental impact assessment and approvals processes in respect of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as advocating for a WA Climate Change Act, drawing on the experience of other domestic legislation.
  • Protection of WA’s biodiversity – we will use existing legislation (including the new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (WA) (BC Act)) to advise on and advocate for better protection of WA’s biodiversity. We will promote the reform opportunities of the new BC Act by contributing submissions on the draft regulations and proposing amendments to strengthen the Act.
  • National coordination of EDOs – following recent discussions about improved coordination of the EDOs across Australia, we will explore ways to access the expertise and greater resources of other EDOs to assist clients with strategic litigation projects with national significance (e.g. national cases for climate action). We will also provide input into national law reform projects (e.g. the 2017 review of the Commonwealth government’s climate change policies), to ensure that those projects include a WA perspective.
  • Law reform – we will consider undertaking other law reform work in response to government actions and legislative agendas, including access to justice (e.g. 3rd party appeal rights; the creation of a specialised land and environment court; and challenges to environmental activism rights) and water law.

We will undertake a variety of activities to deliver these priorities, including:

  • advising and representing community groups and individuals;
  • strategic advocacy to promote law reform, including engagement with politicians, government agencies, EDO members and the general public;
  • coordinating with client and other civil society and academic organisations to undertake interdisciplinary research to develop materials in support of law reform and community engagement;
  • delivering community seminars and workshops on high priority strategic issues; and
  • providing updated and accessible fact sheets and other environmental legal information to the community.

At an organisational level, we plan to:

  • Attract additional supporters and funding
  • Develop a Communications and Engagement Plan
  • Continue reform of governance (EDO WA (Inc) Rules, policies & NACLC1 Guidelines) and national linkages
  • Maintain and increase staffing and management committee membership
  • Reinvigorate our Volunteer and Graduate Programs
  • Transition to an electronic file management system

Download the PDF


Protecting the Fitzroy Basin

Rey Resources has applied for a licence to build its Duchess Paradise coal mine, almost 200 kilometres south-east of Derby, near the Fitzroy River.  The Environmental Protection Authority has determined that the Duchess Paradise Project shall be assessed at the level of Public Environmental Review.

The EDOWA is representing a traditional owner who has lodged an objection to Rey Resources being granted a mining licence for the coal project.  Our client raises a number of issues in her objection including that the Fitzroy River forms part of one of the largest networks of unregulated tropical rivers in the world and has unique wilderness values, that the Camballin floodplain within the Fitzroy River catchment is an important refuge for nationally and internationally significant migratory birds; that the Fitzroy River has great spiritual and cultural significant for indigenous people in the region and that mining development cumulatively is likely to impact negatively on the flow regime and water quality in the Fitzroy River and its tributaries.

The matter is next listed in Court in February 2017.

Please donate to allow us to keep providing assistance in matters such as this.

Protecting the Helena Aurora range from mining

The Helena and Aurora Range (Aboriginal name ‘Bungalbin’) is a magnificent banded ironstone formation (BIF) range in Western Australia.


10 years ago, the State’s Environment minister of the day announced these ranges would become a national park. But a few days later, cabinet overturned the decision, downgrading the area to a conservation park, which despite its name, allows mining applications.

We are representing a number of objectors to the current mining application in the Helena Aurora Ranges.  Our clients say that this area of Western Australia should be protected, and we agree. The matter is progressing and we are next in Court in early 2017.


For further information on this case, please see the lateline video here.

EDOWA in Court with native title landowner to stop fracking

Micklo Corpus is a Yawuru traditional owner of country in and around Broome, and has been camping at the entrance to Buru Energy’s Yulleroo gas field for a several years.  Buru Energy is planning to frack two wells at the site 70 kilometres east of Broome to test the potential of the process to produce commercial quantities of gas.  “My intention here is to protect my country, and that’s what I’m all about,” Mr Corpus said.

The Guardian writes:

“Corpus says trucks and other vehicles belonging to Buru have tried to enter the site, which is approved for exploration, 15 times since he has been there without first notifying the Nyamba Buru Yawuru Aboriginal Corporation. Thirteen times he has turned them back.

Once they threatened to bring in a crane to move his car, which was parked across the driveway. Corpus was unperturbed. “I told them, ‘I’ve got two star pickets in the back, I’ll use them’,” he says. That’s when the police were called.

“They got the police to move me off country,” he says. “I said: ‘This is my country, and you guys know that.’ ” The police replied: “Mick, we’ve got a job to do. At this point in time, they’re lawful.”

Still, he persists.  “Me just being at the gate there is making them accountable to our office,” he says. “Just the presence, I think, and to maintain that presence to keep them honest.”

EDOWA is assisting Mr Corpus challenge a Building notice that has been served on him by the Broome Council, which would force him to remove his camp leaving him unable to monitor his land.  The matter is listed for final hearing in the State Administrative Tribunal in December 2016.

Please donate now to help us to continue to provide environmental legal advice to the WA community.



New website launched

The website has been restructured and redesigned by the passionate team at Blake Digital in Belmont.

Blake Digital is a leading full-service digital agency focused on modern business solutions. Based in Perth, Western Australia, they are an innovative and creative digital agency passionate about building and developing business and relationships. Their team strives to provide excellent customer service, award-winning crafted designs, powerful integrated internet solutions, beautiful and focused websites and finally innovative and targeted marketing.

You can learn about their services on their website

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 on request. 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:

Court Overturns Approval of Roe Highway Ext

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.

The application for review was filed on behalf of Save Beeliar Wetlands (Inc) (SBW), a coalition that has, in one form or another, opposed the RHE 8 project since the current Government first announced its commitment to build the highway extension during the 2008 State elections. The Application was also filed on behalf of Carole de Barre, an individual whose property adjoins the proposed highway extension. Among other things, the application for review claims that the EPA’s environmental assessment of the RHE 8 was affected by the participation of Authority members who were interested in the project’s approval.

The EDOWA said that “In 2013, the State’s approval of a proposed, $45 Billion natural gas processing and export facility at James Price Point north of Broom, was set aside because the EPA failed to properly exclude conflicted members from participating in the assessment. In the approval of the RHE 8 project – another billion dollar-plus project – we see yet again the participation of conflicted Authority members in a State-led project’s assessment. The process once again has let WA’s citizens down.  While not specifically named in the application for review, EDOWA noted that the interests of two (2) former EPA members were implicated, namely: (1) Dr Chris Whitaker, who served as an EPA member from 11 May 2007 (and Deputy Chairman from 18 November 2009) to 17 November 2012, and (2) Dr Rod Lukatelich, who served as an EPA member from 18 November 2009 to 10 May 2014.

Both members, had conflicts of interest that contributed to the Court’s 2013 rejection of the James Price Point gas project. The judicial challenge does not turn solely on conflict or bias, however. “We have also challenged the EPA’s (and Minister’s) failure to consider alternative road alignments or ‘no build’ options in the assessment process and the failure to properly apply EPA policy regarding environmental offsets”, SBW Chairperson Kate Kelly said. “For instance, while Main Roads originally proposed to acquire 468 ha of land to offset Black Cockatoo habitat lost in the highway extension, EPA cut that Medicommitment in half – to 234 ha – and then left the specifics ‘to be decided later’”, she noted. The RHE 8 project is currently awaiting Federal environmental approval.