26 September 2014
Welcome to our fortnightly EDO Tasmania Bulletin (sorry this one’s a bit late!). This bulletin contains news and current developments in planning and environment law and information about upcoming events and opportunities for public comment.
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Law and Policy Updates
Opportunities to Comment
What’s Happening at EDO Tasmania?
Vale Jeremy Ball
EDO Tasmania was deeply saddened by the recent death of Launceston’s Deputy Mayor, Jeremy Ball. Jeremy was a committed advocate for social justice and environmental protection who worked constructively with all sectors of the community to secure a better future for Tasmania. He will be missed.
Report finds threatened species laws inadequate
Concerned by the proposal to hand Commonwealth assessment and approval powers to State governments as part of the one-stop shop policy, the Places You Love Alliance commissioned the Australian Network of Environmental Defender’s Offices (ANEDO) to analyse threatened species laws across Australia.
The ANEDO report compares State and Territory threatened species and planning legislation against national standards and concludes:
The report identifies a number of weaknesses in Tasmania’s threatened species management, including:
- laws in every State and Territory fail to meet best practice standards; and
- there is actually a widening gap between State and Territory environmental standards and national standards.
Click here for a summary of the report’s findings.
- lack of comprehensive listing statements or a recovery plans for a large number of listed species;
- no consistent requirement to consider impacts on threatened species when making planning and resource management decisions;
- Tasmanian laws do not expressly require decisions to be made in accordance with key international agreements dealing with World Heritage, wetlands of international significance and biological diversity.
Review of Commonwealth marine reserves begins
On 11 September 2014, the Federal government announced a review of the Commonwealth marine reserves.
A comprehensive network of marine reserves, and associated management plans, were developed under the former Labor government. The proposed reserves, covering approximately one third of Commonwealth waters and establishing some no-take zones, were due to come into effect on 1 July 2014. Soon after its election in 2013, the Liberal government set aside the management plans for the new reserves.
Note: the management plan for the South East Marine region, off Tasmania’s coast, took effect in 2013 and has not been set aside.
The government has established an Expert Scientific Panel and five Bioregional Advisory Panels to conduct the review. These bodies will:
The panels are set to report to the Government by mid-2015, with consultation yet to commence. For more information about the Review, see the Department of Environment website.
- Provide advice on “areas of contention within the marine reserves”;
- Outline options for zoning, and zoning boundaries, and allowed uses;
- Identify future priorities for scientific research and monitoring relating to marine biodiversity within the marine reserves; and
- Make recommendations for improving the inclusion of social and economic considerations into decision-making for marine reserves.
Interestingly, President Obama this week proclaimed the world’s largest marine reserve, expanding the area in the Pacific Remote Marine National Monument in which commercial resource extraction (including fishing) is banned to 370,000 square nautical miles. Read more here.
Whaling in the Southern Ocean
The 65th annual International Whaling Commission meeting in Slovenia ended on 19 September 2014, after four days of rigorous debate. All the documents from the meeting are available on the IWC website.
Significantly, a resolution proposed by New Zealand (and supported by Australia) was passed (39:19), giving the IWC’s Scientific Committee a greater role in issuing scientific permits and determining whether proposed research programmes meet the criteria set down by the International Court of Justice.
The resolution has the following implications:
Despite this ruling, the Japanese Government confirmed at the meeting that it plans to submit a new research plan, with the aim of resuming whaling in the Antarctic Ocean in 2015.
- The Scientific Committee will review new and existing special permit research programmes and advise whether the scale and design of the programme is reasonable to achieve research objectives, whether the research objectives can be achieved by non-lethal means and any other matter the Scientific Committee considers relevant to implementation of the ICJ’s decision;
- The Scientific Committee will revise how it reviews special permit research programmes; and
- No further special permits for taking whales will be issued until the research programme has been reviewed and the IWC has considered the report of the Scientific Committee.
On 24 September 2014, the Australian Senate passed a motion calling on the Japanese Government to “respect the IWC motion and not to recommence a lethal 'scientific' whaling program in the Southern Ocean in 2015”.
Click here to watch the great lecture by Dr Julia Jabour, Dr Tony Press and Indi Hodgson Johnson regarding the ICJ’s decision on Japan’s JARPA II research programme from earlier this year.
Coastal flooding could cost billions
The Climate Council’s latest report, Counting the Costs, highlights the significant risks to homes, infrastructure and biodiversity from coastal flooding. The key findings of the report include:
As an island State, this report is significant for Tasmania and its coastal communities. Read the full Report here.
- Sea level has already risen and continues to rise due to climate change. Climate change exacerbates coastal flooding from a storm surge as the storm rides on higher sea levels.
- Australia is highly vulnerable to increasing coastal flooding because our cities, towns and critical infrastructure are mainly located on the coast. Australia’s infrastructure has been built for the climate of the 20th century and is unprepared for rising sea level.
- Coastal flooding is a “sleeping giant”. If the threat of sea level rise is ignored, the projected increases in economic damage caused by coastal flooding are massive.
- Rising sea levels pose risks for many of Australia’s species and iconic natural places, such as Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef.
- Rising sea level is eroding the viability of coastal communities on islands in the Torres Strait and the Pacific, and in low-lying areas of Asia, increasing the likelihood of migration and resettlement.
- We need deep and urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions this decade and beyond if we are to avoid the most serious risks from rising sea levels and coastal flooding.
Climate laws inadequate to protect human rights
In the week of the UN Climate Summit, which resulted in non-binding commitments to increase foreign aid, support the expansion of renewable energy and reduce deforestation, the International Bar Association released a report discussing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on developing nations.
The report, Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption, notes that the impacts of climate change are felt most strongly by those who have contributed to it the least and lack the resources to respond. The Report recommends a series of urgent actions to improve access to justice and legal frameworks for people affected by climate change.
National environmental science programme funding
The Commonwealth government has invited applications to the national environmental science programme (NSEP) to fund research to assist in biodiversity management and conservation.
The NSEP will select projects in six research fields:
Applications must be received by 5 November 2014. For more information, go to the NESP website.
- Threatened Species Recovery
- Tropical Water Quality
- Clean Air and Urban Landscapes
- Earth Systems
- Marine Biodiversity
- Northern Australia Environmental Resources
Law and Policy updates
Protest laws to be amended
Earlier this month, the Legislative Council refused to send the Workplace (Protection from Protesters) Bill 2014 to Committee for review, with several members saying the anti-protest Bill required a complete re-write before being seriously considered.
On 24 September 2014, the government announced that the Bill would be amended to exclude protests staged at public places, professional offices, shops or markets and to address concerns expressed by TFGA regarding “Lock the Gate” actions by farmers affected by gas exploration. Changes to the penalties and prosecution powers are also proposed, however mandatory sentencing for second time offenders will be retained.
Details of the amendments will be introduced before the Bill is debated in October. Opponents of the bill, including conservation groups, the Law Society and Civil Liberties Australia, have criticised the proposal, saying that the amendments will not address fundamental concerns and recommending that the Bill be withdrawn.
Amendments flagged to defamation laws
During Budget Estimates, Attorney-General, Vanessa Goodwin MLC, confirmed plans to amend the Defamation Act 2005 to allow large corporations to sue. The Act, introduced following the commencement of the Gunns 20 lawsuit, provides that for-profit corporations employing more than 10 people cannot take action for defamation.
The government proposes to remove this restriction, but has yet to introduce legislation to make the change.
Cost recovery for environmental assessments
Amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and supporting regulations will allow the Commonwealth Government to recover the cost of environmental assessments and strategic assessments from applicants and take effect on 1 October 2014.
The amendments introduce a referral fee of $7,352, and a scale of assessment fees determined on the basis of the number and complexity of components involved in the assessment.
Fees will not be charged retrospectively for any stages of the assessment process that have already been completed, or for projects where the applicant has an annual turnover less than $2 million. Applications for fee waiver may also be made.
For more information, see the Department of Environment website.
Opportunities to Comment
Are you interested in keeping up-to-date with opportunities for public comment, development applications, exploration licences and more? Check out the Tasmanian Government public notices website.
You can browse by Department or search the whole page. This is a very useful site if you want to know how you can have your say.
Emissions Reduction Fund methods
The Commonwealth Department of Environment has released three draft Emissions Reduction Fund method determinations for public consultation: Coal Mining, Alternative Waste Treatment and Landfill Gas. Emissions reduction methods set out the rules for estimating emissions reductions from different activities.
Feedback is being sought on the methodologies proposed, consistency with the Offsets Integrity Standards under the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014, and whether projects implemented under the methods are likely to cause any significant adverse social, environmental or economic impacts.
Submissions are invited until 1 October 2014. Read more and have your say.
Commonwealth Energy Green Paper
The Federal Government has released an Energy Green Paper outlining policy approaches for reliable and affordable energy to “improve Australia’s energy outcomes”. The Green Paper is the second step in the development of the Energy White Paper.
The Green Paper focuses largely on Australia’s gas industry and how to attract more investment into extractive energy resources. There is little focus on the investment opportunity for renewable energy sources in Australia.
Public submissions on the Energy Green Paper can be made until 4 November 2014. For more information, read the Executive Summary and Giles Parkinson’s article in the RenewEconomy.
Draft National Recovery Plan for the Orange-bellied Parrot
The Orange-Bellied parrot is critically endangered, with an estimated wild population of fewer than 80 birds. The Draft National Recovery Plan for the Orange-bellied Parrot, Neophema chrysogaster outlines the long-term strategy, and short-term objectives and actions for the recovery of this species.
Read ABC Radio National’s article on the fight to save the Orange-bellied Parrot.
Public comments on the Draft Plan can be made until 7 November 2014. Read more and have your say.
The Draft Report on the government’s review of competition policy was released on 22 September 2014.
Several key Coalition MPs and Senators had asked the review panel to consider removal of the current exemption for secondary boycotts motivated by environmental concerns. The submission from the Tasmanian government was supportive of the exemption being removed.
Secondary boycotts refer to boycotts which do not target the company in question, but target their suppliers or consumers (for example, urging people not to buy products from stores that stock old-growth timber furniture).
The review panel noted that changes to secondary boycott exemptions would raise complex issues, potentially preventing anti-smoking and gambling campaigns, and had not been justified. The panel did not rule out future changes to the law, but found that an assessment of the justification for the change was outside the scope of the review.
However, the panel specifically requested further comments on the impacts of “environmental or consumer groups taking action that directly impedes the lawful commercial activity.” It is not clear what the extent to which such actions, or legal provisions to address such actions, will be considered by the panel.
Submissions regarding the draft report, and further comments regarding impacts of environmental consumer actions can be made until 17 November 2014. Read more and have your say.
Landcare Tasmania AGM
Members of Landcare Tasmania and other interested people are invited to attend the Landcare Tasmania Annual General Meeting on 2 October 2014. The AGM will be held at the Grange, Campbell Town.
Current members or representatives of current member groups are invited to nominate for election to the Landcare Tasmania General Committee.
Please RSVP by 26 September to email@example.com.
Reclaim your power – Climate Action workshop
Climate Action Hobart is hosting a free, practical workshop on Sunday, 5 October 2014 at the Philip Smith Centre, Glebe. Learn from local and national experts about ways you can influence climate outcomes by your choices and actions, whether by changing your bank account, speaking to your local member, installing solar panels or shopping at the local farmers’ market.
Click here for the full programme. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eat Local, Feed Global
Oxfam’s Eat Local Feed Global campaign is launching on World Food Day, 16 October 2014. To find out more about how you can host a meal to raise funds and promote the benefits of sustainable agriculture, building resilience to climate change and sourcing produce locally, go to the campaign page.
Polar Law Symposium
The 7th Polar Law Symposium will be held in Hobart on 28-31 October 2014. The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies is collaborating with the Polar Law Institute and others to bring the event to the southern hemisphere for the first time.
The Keynote speaker is Professor Akiho Shibata from Japan’s Kobe University, whose principal research interests relate to international lawmaking process, international environmental law and Antarctic Treaty System.
For more information, visit the website. Registration is now open.
EIANZ conference – Living on the Edge
The annual EIANZ conference will be held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Hobart on 30-31 October 2014. The conference features a range of great speakers, including Nick Gale, Simon Currant, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt MP, Vanessa Bleyer and EDO’s Adam Beeson, examining contemporary solutions to environmental challenges.
For more information, go to the conference website.
National Environmental Law Association National Conference 2014
This year’s NELA conference will be held on Friday, 21 November 2014 at the Intercontinental, Sydney. The conference, Transformation or Train Wreck? Environmental and Climate Change Law at the Crossroads, includes speakers from the judiciary, legal profession, government, industry, consultants and academics addressing a range of perspectives on current practices and future directions.
For more information, including the full program, and to register, click here.
What’s Happening at EDO Tasmania?
Annual General Banquet
Thanks to amazing support, EDO Tasmania continues to survive to see another year. To celebrate, we would like to invite all members, supporters and interested people to join us for some short AGM formalities, followed by an Indian banquet and much merriment.
Where: Upstairs at Annapurna, North Hobart
When: 6:30pm, 13 October 2014
Cost: EDO members, $20 (includes banquet + wine)
Non-members, $30 (includes banquet + wine)
To RSVP, email us on email@example.com.
We are proud to announce that Adam Beeson is now an accredited mediator, allowing EDO Tasmania to provide mediation services to assist with the resolution of planning or environmental disputes. Find out more about this valuable service on our website.
Community Mining Workshops
Over the past two weeks, Sarah Wilson has delivered a series of workshops throughout Tasmania to help communities to understand mining laws.
Many thanks to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for the invaluable discussion of how Aboriginal cultural values are (and are not) considered in the assessment process, to Todd Dudley for providing some local examples, to NRM South, NRM North, Cradle Coast NRM, St Helens Neighbourhood Centre and Hobart City Council for their support, and to everyone who came along.
If you missed the workshops but would like EDO to hold a workshop in your area, contact us on 6223 2770. Or download the Community Guide to Mining Law from our website.
Southern Ocean Senate Inquiry
Jess Feehely appeared at the Hobart public hearings of the Senate inquiry into Australia’s future activities and responsibilities in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters. The hearing focussed primarily on the value of, and allocation of funding to, scientific research and issues relating to whaling and unlawful fishing.
The Committee will report to the Senate by 29 October 2014. You can read EDO Tasmania’s submission to the inquiry here.
One-stop shop submissions
EDO Tasmania made a detailed submission in relation to the proposed Bilateral Approval Agreement, which would delegate approval powers under the EPBC Act to the State government for a range of projects. Click here to read our submission.