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December 2013

The NELA Bulletin is published on the first Thursday of each month. Contributions are welcome and should be emailed to the editor by 5pm AEDST on the preceding Friday.


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This Month


NELA news and events
01. From the President
02. Report on the 2013 WA State Conference
03. NELA Environmental Law Essay Competition

Law and policy developments
04. In the courts
05. In the legislature
06. Australian news and policy developments
07. International developments

News and events from NELA’s partners
08. Outcomes from Warsaw – Insights from COP 19
09. Latest issue of IUCN’s Marine News out now

Other events
10. (Qld) ACIUCN Government/NGO roundtable on Great Barrier Reef Draft Strategic Assessment
11. (Aus – various locations) Legalwise Seminars
12. (Qld) Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) – upcoming events
13. (Ecuador) Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature Conference
14. (NZ) New Zealand Earth Law Conference on Sustainability

Opportunities
15. Opportunities for comment
16. Roles
17. Other

Resources
18. (Qld) Mines Globe
19. (International) Global Carbon Budget 2013

NELA news and events

From the President

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This is the final edition of the NELA Bulletin for 2013, and what a year it has been for NELA. It’s been a pleasure to see so many of NELA’s members become active and engaged, helping to reshape the organization and give it a voice.

Thanks to all of you who’ve contributed to NELA submissions and policy during the year. It will all come in handy when we meet with environment minister Greg Hunt next month to discuss proposals to streamline approvals under the EPBC Act and programs to meet emissions reduction targets.

A huge thanks to Ellen Geraghty, the editor of the Bulletin. She took on the task of delivering a NELA Bulletin singlehanded at the beginning of this year and has done a stupendous job to deliver it each month. Watch out for further improvement next year.

Wishing you all a safe and happy festive season.
Amanda Cornwall

 

Report on the 2013 WA State Conference

The WA State Conference was recently held at the Parmelia Hilton in Perth. Centred on the theme “Water in Practice – Laws for a limited resource”, the conference explored the adequacy of the existing regulatory framework and practical issues for managing impacts on water resources.

The Conference was opened by the Honourable Albert Jacob, Western Australian Minister for Environment, and included a presentation by Greens Senator Larissa Waters on issues related to the EPBC Act. There were also presentations on new developments, including unconventional gas and the proposed water law reforms, and lessons learnt from previous projects with water related issues. The day closed with an engaging discussion on the need for reform guided by a diverse group of panellists.

The conference dinner was held at Halo Restaurant on the Swan River and featured an entertaining and thought provoking presentation by Simon Forrest, a Noongar elder and academic, on Aboriginal people and their connection to Perth and the Swan River.

The conference was attended by a range of environmental professionals from the legal profession, industry, government and environmental interest groups and was a great opportunity to network and exchange ideas on the development of environmental law and policy and best practice environmental regulation.

 

NELA Environmental Law Essay Competition

NELA has welcomed the response to this year’s essay competition, which centred on the theme
"If it’s worth protecting then it’s worth protecting well". The judges are presently considering the submissions and will decide on the winning essay in the new year.

In the meantime, NELA takes this opportunity to announce that the theme for the 2014 Essay Competition will be "Are we selling our environment short?" Further details of the 2014 competition will be announced in the first few months of next year.


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Law and policy developments

In the courts

New South Wales

Save Little Manly Beach Foreshore Incorporated v Manly Council (No 2) [2013] NSWLEC 156

In this case, a community group sought to restrain the sale of land by Manly Council on basis that under the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) it is classified as community land, which Council has no power to sell; the land comprised two properties zoned “Public Recreation” adjacent to Little Manly Beach reserve.

The Court held that a Council resolution classifying one of the properties as operation land was beyond power because it was deemed to be community land under the Act and the Council failed to give public notice of the resolution as required under the Act. It was also held that a Council resolution purporting to reclassify the other property as operation land was beyond power because it was inconsistent with the terms of a trust for a public purpose, executed by the transferor as part of the compulsory acquisition process.

The Court made an order restraining Council from selling, exchanging or otherwise disposing of the land so long as it remained classified as community land and the Council was ordered to pay the applicant’s costs.

 

Queensland

Mine operator fined for causing environmental harm

The former operator of Baal Gammon copper mine, Kagara Pty Ltd, has pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the unauthorised release of contaminated water into Jamie Creek and the Walsh River west of Herberton during the 2011/12 wet season.

Kagara was subsequently fined $120,000 by the Cairns Magistrates Court for contravening an environmental protection order, unlawfully causing material environmental harm, and breaching a condition of the mine’s Environmental Authority.

The owner of the mine, Baal Gammon Copper Pty Ltd, was fined $80,000 in relation to the discharges in September.

 

In the legislature

Commonwealth

Carbon price repeal Bills

The Commonwealth Government has introduced several Bills into Parliament that would repeal a number of initiatives established under the Clean Energy Package. The proposed legislation, if passed, would abolish the carbon price, the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Clean Energy Regulator and will be debated by the Senate in December after being passed by the House of Representatives on 21 November.

More information is available here

 

Queensland

Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013

This Bill was recently introduced into Parliament and is intended to manage the impact of resource activities and other regulated activities on areas of the State that contribute, or are likely to contribute, to Queensland’s economic, social and environmental prosperity. When enacted it will repeal the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011.

The Bill has now been referred to committee.

 

New South Wales

Planning Bill 2013 and Planning Administration Bill 2013

The NSW Government has introduced the Planning Bill 2013 and its cognate, the Planning Administration Bill 2013into Parliament. This follows the Government’s Green Paper and White Paper on a New Planning System for NSW, which were open for public comment in 2012 and 2013.
The Planning Bill 2013 has been amended in the Legislative Council and returned to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence. The Planning Administration Bill 2013 has been passed by both Houses.

Copies of the Bills, and details of the passage of the Bills through Parliament, are available here.

 

Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Prosecutions) Bill 2013

This Bill, recently introduced to the Legislative Assembly, proposes to amend the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 to transfer the power to prosecute serious environmental offences from the Environment Protection Authority to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General.

The progress of this Bill can be followed here.

 

Rural Fires Amendment Act 2013

This new Act will amend the Rural Fires Act 1997 to make further provision for bush fire hazard reduction, and the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 to provide immunity from committing certain offences under that Act in the course of carrying out bush fire hazard reduction work.

 

Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment (Public Interest) Bill 2013

This Bill, which has now passed both houses, will amend the Mining Act 1992 and the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 to make the public interest a ground for certain decisions relating to mining or petroleum rights or titles, including refusing to grant a new title, refusing to renew a title, and cancelling a title.

 

Tasmania

Aboriginal heritage legislation parked

Debate on controversial Aboriginal Heritage management legislation has been deferred, following the Legislative Council’s decision to refer the legislation to a standing committee. The legislation, which seeks to replace the outdated Aboriginal Relics Act 1975 and integrate Aboriginal heritage assessment into the planning process has been criticised by some members of Tasmania’s Aboriginal community for its failure to give the Aboriginal Heritage Council any power to refuse development applications. The power to refuse an application on the basis of impacts on Aboriginal heritage rests solely with the relevant Minister.

The committee will consider the legislation when parliament resumes in March 2014, following the State election.

Further information about the legislation is available here and here.

 

Australian news and policy developments

Commonwealth

Minister Hunt provides details of Direct Action policy

On 3 December, Environment Minister Greg Hunt released details of the government's $2.55 billion Direct Action policy in a speech to the Carbon Expo in Melbourne.

Mr Hunt made the following points:

  • there is a reasonable expectation that abatement providers under the government's Emissions Reduction Fund will be offered five-year contracts;

  • project proponents could create abatement credits that would go beyond five years, giving reassurance to potential bidders;

  • the government would ensure Australian carbon credits under the scheme would be able to be converted into international credits;

  • the government would consider regulatory measures to set emissions standards and energy efficiency goals, if industry came forward with such a proposal.

This update is based on a report published in the Climate Spectator. You can read the report here.

 

Emissions Reduction Fund

The Commonwealth Government’s call for submissions on the terms of reference for the proposed $2.55bn emissions reduction fund (ERF) has attracted comments from industry.

The Australian Industry Group’s submission made a number of significant points, including the following:

  • The fund should be funded outside the budget so that it isn’t “whittled away” by future governments, otherwise “the policy is unlikely to attract companies that will need to make a significant long-term effort to develop a proposal” to tender at ERF auction.

  • Businesses would “lack the confidence to build a business model that requires repeat transactions” unless that risk was avoided by creating an ERF fund “independent of the budget cycle”.

  • International carbon offset units should be included in the emissions reduction policy. They said it is “simple common sense” and would free up resources “for other national priorities or, potentially, allowing greater [emissions reduction] ambition”. Further, the government’s policy of trying to meet Australia's international commitment to raise its target above -5% on 2000 levels by 2020 using only domestic abatement “would be very challenging, particularly considering the likelihood that local options are relatively high-cost and low-volume”.

A copy of the submission is available here.

 

New South Wales

NSW Government signs environmental assessment and approvals MoU with Commonwealth

The Commonwealth and NSW governments have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as part of Australian Government’s ‘One Stop Shop’ policy for streamlining environmental assessment and approval.

Under the MoU, the NSW Government will become responsible for assessing projects relating to matters of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). An approval bilateral agreement is expected to be signed within 12 months, which would make the NSW Government responsible for approving projects under the EPBC Act.

A copy of the MoU is available here.

 

Amendments to Mining SEPP gazetted

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) Amendment (Resource Significance) 2013 has now been gazetted. It differs from the draft exhibited in that will amend the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 to extend its application to existing mines that seek to extend or expand their operations, as well as to new mines.

Further detail is available here.

 

Moratorium on coal seam gas in Sydney water catchment special areas

The NSW Government has announced a hold on coal seam gas activities within Sydney water catchment special areas, effective immediately. The hold will remain in place while the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer investigate the impact of coal seam gas activities and other contributing factors on water in the Special Areas.

A copy of the media release announcing the moratorium is available here.

 

Northern Territory

Water resources

A Ministerial Statement on Water Resources was issued on the 9 October 2013 in the NT Parliament. A Northern Territory Water Policy is to be developed with provision for public consultation.

The Water Act is currently being reviewed with the intention of complying with the National Water Initiative, examining water trading and markets and to provide for perpetual water licences. There is no reference to public consultation with respect to the review of the legislation.

The Statement further advises that the Government has terminated the recognition of a Strategic Indigenous Reserve in Water Allocation Plans but will review this issue over the next two and a half years.

A Northern Territory Catchments Advisory Committee is to be established.

 

Tasmania

2020 Climate Change Strategy released

The Tasmanian Government has released the Climate Smart Tasmania: A 2020 Climate Change Strategy. The Strategy outlines a number of actions and targets to be undertaken, setting the path for achievement of the legislated target of 60% reduction on 1990 emissions by 2050.

Significantly, the Strategy establishes ambitious targets to be achieved by 2020, including 35% emission reductions and generation of 100% of Tasmania’s power from renewable energy.  The Strategy also commits to the continuation of a range of government initiatives to assist households and small to medium enterprises to reduce their energy use, as well as supporting research into alternative transport options.

The Strategy follows 12 months of stakeholder consultation, involving numerous public meetings and attracting over 100 written submissions.   The Strategy is available here

 

Victoria

Fracking moratorium to remain until 2015

A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing will remain in place in Victoria until at least July 2015 while the State Government undertakes an extensive consultation process into a report on coal seam gas exploration.

The taskforce’s final and supplementary reports can be found here.

 

International developments

Outcome of Warsaw climate change talks

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, has said that the climate change talks which have recently been taking place in Warsaw between diplomats and environment experts representing more than 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, have proven to be an important stepping stone towards a universal legal agreement in 2015.

The talks included participation from the private sector for the first time, and the resulting agreement has laid the groundwork for a legally binding treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to be adopted in 2015 and to enter into force by 2020.

Further information about the talks is available here.

Reports on the conference by NELA’s partner Sustainable Business Australia are available here.

 

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News and events from NELA’s partners

Events offered by NELA’s partners often provide substantial savings for NELA members - so check them out and make the most of your NELA membership!

Outcomes from Warsaw – Insights from COP 19

This event will feature a keynote address from Debora Frodl, Global Executive Director, ecomagination, GE, followed by a panel session.

When: 5.30pm – 7.30pm, Monday, 9 December 2013
Where: GE, Level 20, 99 Walker Street, North Sydney
Cost: FREE

To register, please click here.

 

Latest issue of IUCN’s Marine News out now

The IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme (GMPP) has just published the latest issue of its news magazine, Marine News.

This issue celebrates the choice of 31 new ocean Hope Spots, areas of ocean that merit special protection due to their wildlife and significant underwater habitats. The issue also reports on how new research demonstrates the amazing ability of seagrasses to trap atmospheric carbon dioxide, as well as the work of GMPP, the IUCN’s Regions, Commissions and partners from around the world, from whale sharks in the Maldives to western gray whales in Eastern Russia.

The current issue can be accessed here, and previous issues of the magazine can be accessed here.

 

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Other events

(Qld) ACIUCN Government/NGO roundtable on Great Barrier Reef Draft Strategic Assessment

The Australian Committee for IUCN (ACIUCN) is providing key NGOs with a roundtable environment where participants can obtain a thorough briefing on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Draft Strategic Assessment from senior officials of the governments involved.

Its aim is to have an information exchange and opportunity to drill down into aspects of the assessments to assist in making submissions as well informed and useful as possible. The style will be in line with the ethos of IUCN which is collegiate and non-adversarial. It is not an advocacy meeting nor an attempt to get a consensus of organisational responses.

To register, click here.

 

(Aus – various locations) Legalwise Seminars

Legalwise Seminars runs over 400 legal seminars per year with the most up-to-date content, expert speakers and interactive opportunities to learn. All seminars are CPD accredited and NELA members receive a 10% discount.

Check out their website for their regularly updated program, or click on any of the below upcoming offerings for more information.


(Qld) Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) – upcoming events

AELA’s mission is to promote the understanding and practical implementation of earth jurisprudence and ‘wild law’ in Australia.  Earth jurisprudence is a new legal theory and growing social movement.  It proposes that we rethink our legal, political, economic and governance systems so that they support, rather than undermine, the integrity and health of the Earth. To learn more, join us at one of our upcoming events:

  • (Qld) Environmental Justice Symposium – 12 and 13 December 2013.

For more information about each event, or to RSVP, please click here

 

(Ecuador) Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature Conference

This conference will enable participants to collectively examine the lessons learned from the expanding implementations of rights of nature around the world and to broaden our framework of action to further galvanize the global earth rights movement. 

When: 13 – 17 January 2014
Where: Ecuador

Further details will be posted here as they become available.

 

(NZ) New Zealand Earth Law Conference on Sustainability

The Earth Law Alliance Aotearoa NZ, The German Australian Pacific Lawyers Association and The Resource Management Law Association of New Zealand is hosting this Earth Law Conference on Sustainability.

When: 14–16 February 2014
Where: Wellington, New Zealand

Topics covered will include environmental bills of rights, legal incorporation of indigenous perspectives on the environment, and on the effects of climate change.

For more information click here.

 

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Opportunities

Opportunities for comment

 

Commonwealth

Move to rationalise environmental approvals for offshore petroleum activites

The Commonwealth Government has announced it will transfer requirements under the EPBC Act as they apply to offshore oil and gas activities to the Offshore Petroleum and GHG Storage Act 2006(OPGGS Act). The move means that assessment and approval of impacts on “matters of national environmental significance” will be administered by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) instead of the environment department. The objective is to ensure environmental impacts of industry activities in Commonwealth, state and NT waters are “of an acceptable level and reduced to as low as reasonably practicable” and “consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development”.

Streamlining the environment assessment requirements has been recommended by various inquiries including reports by the Productivity Commission and the Hawke Review in 2009, and the report of the Montaro Commission of Inquiry in 2010.

A streamlining project will map requirements of the EPBC and OPGGS Acts resulting in a “one-stop-shop” for petroleum environmental assessments. A key feature of the streamlining project is a strategic assessment of NOPSEMA’s environmental management authorisation processes, in accordance with Part 10 the EPBC Act.

The proposal is captured in a proposed NOPSEMA program and a 161-page draft strategic assessment report  released for public consultation on 22 November 2013. Both the program and the report are open for comment until 20 December 2013.

 

New South Wales

Weed management review 

The Minister for Primary Industries has asked the Natural Resources Commission to undertake an independent evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of weed management arrangements in NSW, with the view of informing the further development of the proposed Biosecurity Act (NSW), and other relevant strategies under the NSW Biosecurity Strategy. 

The Natural Resources Commission invites community and stakeholder submissions on the Issues Paper which it has drawn up.  

Submissions in relation to that Issues Paper are invited until Friday 6 December 2013.

For more information and to make a submission, click here.

 

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage reform

The NSW Government has released a model for managing Aboriginal cultural heritage and is currently carrying out community consultation on the future management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW.

Submissions are invited until Friday 14 February 2014

For further information and to make a submission, click here.

 

Queensland

Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment consultation

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Government are undertaking a comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjacent coastal zone.

The draft strategic assessment and program reports look at the Reef’s values and how these values are being protected now and into the future, while enabling the sustainable development of the coastal zone. The comprehensive strategic assessment has been developed in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

These documents are currently available for public comment and submissions are invited until 31 January 2013

For more information and to make a submission, click here.

 

Tasmania

Amendments proposed to Fisheries Management Plans

Draft amendments to the management plans for the Abalone and Rock Lobster fisheries have been released for public comment.

Proposed changes to the Rock Lobster Management Plan include introduction of a catch limit to take effect for the 2014 season. Comments on the plan can be made until 5 December 2013.

Comments in relation to the Abalone Management Plan can be made until 10 January 2014
For more information and to make a submission, click here.

 

Roles

(Location negotiable) ANEDO Project officer

The Australian Network of Environmental Defender’s Offices (ANEDO) is seeking to employ a Project Officer to work on ANEDO’s future role and strategic direction. The position will be on a short term contract, with the possibility of a longer fixed term or permanent position.

The position description is available here.

 

(SA) Environmental lawyers wanted 

EDO SA seeks lawyers to help with their free advisory service. If you have environmental law experience, and are free on Thursday nights, please contact EDO SA.

 

Volunteer contributors—NELA Bulletin
 
NELA seeks volunteers to contribute to the law and policy developments section of the NELA Bulletin for all States and Territories except NSW, and for the Commonwealth.

Estimated time commitment is around 1–2 hours a month and volunteers are named in the “Thanks to this month’s contributors” section of the Bulletin; we can also include the name of your organization and a hyperlink to your organisation’s website.

Please contact Ellen Geraghty by email or mobile 0407 459 490 for more information.

 

Other

Call for nominations: Mahla Pearlman AO Award for Australian Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year

Nominations are now open for the Mahla Pearlman Award for the Australian Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year.

The Award is named in recognition of the former Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of NSW, and former President of the Law Council of Australia, the late Mahla Pearlman AO.

Nominations must be received by the close of business AEDT on 13 December 2013 by email to lps@lawcouncil.asn.au or by post to GPO Box 1989 Canberra.

For more information about the award, including eligibility criteria, click here.

 

Leadership training for women lawyers

The Advanced Leadership Program is offering two scholarships to women who are members of National Environmental Law Association to support participation in their Advanced Leadership training program – a 12 month program designed to accelerate career progression. The scholarships are valued at $11,000, half the total cost of the program.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by Monday 16 December 2013.

To find out about eligibility criteria and how to apply please contact Nick Williams at the Australian School of Applied Management on 1300 735 904 or email nwilliams@asam.edu.au.

 

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Resources

(Qld) Mines Globe

The Queensland Government recently launched Mines Globe, an easy-to-use Google Earth-based application developed by the State’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

The application provides users with detailed and comprehensive data about the resources sector throughout the State including its coal, minerals, petroleum and gas reserves, as well as information about quarries and geothermal activity and the details of historical exploration permits.

It also shows the location of all current exploration and production permits, mining areas and boundaries, Key Resource Areas and infrastructure such as pipelines and facilities.

It is freely available to students and the general public and can be accessed here.

 

(International) Global Carbon Budget 2013

A new consortium of scientists and institutions under the umbrella of the Global Carbon Project has recently released their 2013 Global Carbon Budget, an annual update of the global carbon budget and trends.

A suite of documents, including summaries, power point presentations, and the Budget itself, is available here.

 

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Thanks to this month's contributors

Amanda Cornwall (Commonwealth and Victoria); Fiona Collin (WA); EDO NSW (NSW and other); Jessica Feehely, EDO Tasmania (Tasmania); Michael O’Donnell (Northern Territory); Natasha Hammond-Deakin (New South Wales)