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June 2015

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This month

NELA news and events
01. Member survey
02. NELA National Conference 2015 – SAVE THE DATE!
03. Follow us on Twitter

Law and policy developments
04. In the legislature
05. In the courts
06. Policy developments and other news

07. (Hobart) Geography and Spatial Science Conference
08. (Adelaide) National Workshop on Nuclear Energy
09. (Sydney) Environment Protection Licensing Seminar
10. (Melbourne) Victoria’s Energy Future
11. (Sydney) Global Conference on Environmental Taxation
12. (Sydney) Annual LAWASIA conference
13. (Sydney) NELA National Conference
14. (Hobart) Indigenous Peoples and Saltwater / Freshwater governance for a sustainable future
15. (Hawaii) 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress

Open for Comment
16. New South Wales
17. Northern Territory
18. Tasmania
19. Western Australia

20. Funding
21. Other


NELA news and events

Member survey

NELA would like to thank all those members who provided feedback through our member survey last month. Your comments will be incredibly useful in shaping NELA’s future.

We’ll update members over the next month regarding the feedback we received and some of the changes that we’ll implement in response. We’ll also be in touch with those members who indicated that they’re interested in being more involved with our activities. For anyone else who is keen to get involved, please feel free to contact us at secretariat@nela.org.au


NELA National Conference 2015 – SAVE THE DATE!

Preparations are underway for our national conference, which will be held at the Pullman in Sydney on 13 November 2015.

To ensure that this year’s conference offers the right mix of topical and relevant papers, we are seeking suggestions from members. What areas of law would you like to hear about? Who would you like to hear speak? Would you like to present at the conference?

Get in touch with Jane Wily at Legalwise by Friday, 12 June 2015 to express your interest or share your ideas. Jane can be contacted on jwily@legalwiseseminars.com.au or 02 8070 9906.


Follow us on Twitter

The NELA Twitter feed is a great way to stay up to date with environmental law developments in Australia in between issues of the Bulletin. We tweet updates, articles and podcasts, as well as jobs, events and other things which are going to expire before the next issue of the Bulletin is published.

It doesn’t cost anything and you don’t have to be on Twitter (though we welcome follows if you are) – just Google @NELA_Australia or click here to see what’s been happening lately.

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Law and policy developments

In the legislature


Bill to amend RET passes first hurdle

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 was passed by the House of Representatives on 2 June 2015. The Bill proposes several significant changes to the current Act:

  • Reducing the Renewable Energy Target for 2030 to 33,000GWh of energy from renewable sources (down from 41,000GWh)

  • Introducing complete exemptions from the RET requirements for emissions intensive trade exposed activities (rather than 60-90% reductions under the current Act)

  • Removing the requirement for 2-yearly reviews of the RET by the Climate Change Authority

  • Allowing the inclusion of native-forest wood waste as a renewable energy source (provided the harvesting is "not primarily for electricity generation" and the wood waste is a "genuine by-product or waste product of a legal operation" that satisfies the RFA requirements). The eligibility of native forest wood waste was previously removed in 2011.

The ALP proposed amendments to exclude wood waste as renewable energy source, however the amendment was not agreed to. The Bill will now proceed to the Senate.


Regulations amended to ban dredge disposal in Great Barrier Reef

The Federal Environment Minister has gazetted an amendment to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations that bans the disposal of capital dredge material within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The ban applies to all past and present permits and future applications for capital dredge disposal, and is intended to help reduce the cumulative pressures on the 344,400km2 Marine Park.

The ban is designed to complement the Queensland Government’s commitment to ban the disposal of capital dredge spoil within areas of the Great Barrier Reef outside of the Marine Park to protect the World Heritage values of the area.


National Water Commission abolished

On 13 May 2015, the Senate passed the National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill.

The National Water Commission was established in 2004 under the National Water Commission Act 2004 to implement the ‘National Water Initiative’ and reform the broader national water agenda. The independent statutory authority provided advice to the Council of Australian Governments on national water issues.

The Coalition government considers that, given substantial progress made in relation to water reform, a stand-alone entity to push the reform agenda was no longer required. Key statutory functions of the Commission will be carried out by other agencies, including the Productivity Commission.


South Australia

Development (Assessment) Amendment Bill 2015

This Bill, is one of a number of legislative reforms which have arisen to address the ERD Court’s judgment in Paior & Anor v City of Marion & Ors (No 3) [2014] SAERDC 42.

The Bill purports to amend the Development Act 1993 to, amongst other things, allow changes to definitions applying in Development Plans to be made more quickly by the Minister. These proposed amendments are important as presently the definitions of detached dwelling, semi-detached dwelling and row dwelling each require exclusive title over a site.

A number of court authorities have interpreted this phrase to require formal tenure arrangements – i.e. title to land – to be in place before a dwelling can be determined to be either a detached, semi-detached or row dwelling. The Bill seeks to address difficulties this has caused for developers.

It is anticipated that the Bill will pass both houses of Parliament shortly.



Bill to require number of objectors to be considered in decision-making

The Planning and Environment Amendment (Recognising Objectors) Bill 2015 proposes to require decision-makers and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, when assessing whether a proposal is likely to have a significant social impact, to consider the number of objections received.

Under the Bill, the relevance of the number of objections would still be determined by the decision-makers and VCAT.


New Planning and Environment Regulations

The Planning and Environment Regulations 2015 commenced on 16 May 2015. The regulations prescribe a number of matters for the purposes of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic), including:

  • the manner and form of giving notice;

  • methods of service;

  • times for applications to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal;

  • information to be included in any applications, notices, permits and requests;

  • information that is to be made available by responsible authorities to the public and the relevant Minister; and

  • information which must be set out in a planning certificate.


In the Courts

Northern Territory

On 29 May 2015, the Northern Territory Supreme Court ruled that the Minister for Land Resource Management did not properly review a complaint about the allocation of rights to take groundwater.

Environment Centre NT had sought Ministerial review on the basis that the NT Controller of Water had not followed water allocation planning processes in granting water extraction licences for the Oolloo and Tindall (Mataranka) aquifers. When the Minister upheld the Controller’s decision, ECNT applied to the Supreme Court for a ruling that the Minister had failed to properly carry out a merits review of the allocation decision under the Water Act 1992.

Justice Hiley held that the Minister was not confined to a consideration of whether the Controller had erred, and was instead required to consider all information relevant to the granting of the water licences. Justice Hiley set aside the Minister’s decision dismissing ECNT’s earlier complaint and directed the Minister to reconsider the application for review.

To read the full judgment in Environment Centre Northern Territory Incorporated v Minister for Land Resource Management [2015] NTSC 3, click here.


Policy developments and other news


UNESCO releases draft decisions ahead of World Heritage Committee meetings in June

On 29 May 2015, UNESCO released two draft decisions regarding Australian World Heritage listed properties:

  • The Great Barrier Reef will not be placed on the World Heritage In-Danger list. However, UNESCO noted that the outlook for the Reef remains “poor” and recommends that the Australian Government be requested to provide a progress review on implementation of the Long Term Sustainability Plan (including adequate funding of management measures) by 2017.

  • The proposed Management Plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area should be reviewed to maintain wilderness values, outline the cultural heritage values to be protected in the area and ensure no mining or forestry activities occur within the site. The decision also recommends that a reactive mission visit the site to determine whether World Heritage values are being adequately managed.

The World Heritage Committee will consider whether to adopt the draft decisions at its meeting in Bonn, Germany in June 2015.



National Greenhouse Gas inventory Report released

The Commonwealth Government has submitted Australia's National Inventory Report 2013 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance of negotiations in Paris later in 2015. The Report contains national greenhouse gas emission estimates for 1990-2013, compiled under the rules for reporting applicable to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. The Report comprises:

  • Volume 1: Australia's data for energy (stationary energy, transport and fugitive emissions), industrial processes and product use, and agriculture.

  • Volume 2: Australia's data for the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) and waste sectors.

  • Volume 3: Australia's data for Kyoto Protocol LULUCF.

For more information, click here.


2014 National Performance Report on Urban Water Utilities released

The Bureau of Meteorology has published a report which benchmarks the pricing and service quality of Australian water utilities. The report covers approximately 150 performance metrics and indicators from 78 water utilities and councils across Australia. The indicators include water resources, finance, pricing, assets, health, environment and customers.

Consistent with commitments made under the National Water Initiative, the report is jointly prepared by the Bureau of Meteorology, State and Territory governments, and the Water Services Association of Australia.



New planning reforms announced

The Palaszczuk government released the Better Planning for Queensland directions paper on 25 May 2015. The directions paper indicates Labor’s intention to repeal the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 and replace it with modernised legislation. The following principles will underpin the new regime:

  • Responsible development;

  • Economic growth and innovation;

  • Public participation; and

  • Clear and concise legislation.

Other than several references to sustainability, the directions paper does not place particular emphasis on environmental protection.

The new regime will consist of three separate bills: a main planning bill, a bill establishing the jurisdiction of the Planning and Environment Court, and a general bill incorporating amendments to other Acts.

Legislation will be drafted and released for consultation in late 2015, with the new legislation expected to commence in late 2016.

Comments on the directions paper may be directed to bestplanning@dilgp.qld.gov.au.


Water Science Taskforce established

On 7 May 2015, Queensland’s Minister for the Great Barrier Reef, Hon. Steven Miles, announced a new initiative to target water quality in the catchment. This initiative involves the establishment of a taskforce headed by Queensland’s Chief Scientist Dr Geoff Garrett, and involving experts from science, business, agriculture and the community sectors. The role of the Taskforce will be to advise government on how to achieve its water quality improvement targets under ReefPlan.

To read more, click here.


Koala listed as vulnerable across Queensland

The Queensland government has accepted the recommendation of the expert Species Technical Committee to extend the classification of the koala, currently listed as vulnerable across the South East Queensland Bioregion, across the entire State. Amendments will be made to the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to give effect to the decision.

Increasing the conservation status will mean that resource and development projects with the potential to impact on koala habitat will be subject to higher levels of scrutiny.



Tasmanian Energy Strategy released

Tasmanian Environment Minister, Matthew Groom MHA, released the ‘Tasmanian Energy Strategy - Restoring Tasmania's Energy Advantage in early May 2015. The Strategy recognises the benefits of solar PV and investment in renewable energy technologies but notes that, until the policy settings stabilise, the Tasmanian government will leave investment to the private sector. The Strategy also outlines over 40 short-medium term actions that the government will take to improve competition and lower power costs.

The Strategy notes that issues relating to Climate Change are not addressed in the Energy Strategy, but will be covered in the Climate Change Action Plan to be released in late 2015.


Scorecard for Tasmania’s environmental laws

EDO Tasmania has released a report examining the various assessment regimes under Tasmania’s environmental laws to determine whether they deliver equivalent protection to matters of national environmental significance as is provided for under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The report, Lifting the Standards, concludes that significant amendments would be necessary prior to any accreditation of Tasmanian approval processes under the EPBC Act.

For more information, click here.



Inquiry into Hazelwood fire to be re-opened and expanded

The Victorian Government has allocated $3.4M to reopen an inquiry into the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire, and to extend the inquiry to cover the operation of other Latrobe Valley brown coal mines (including Alcoa’s Anglesea mine) and issues relating to rehabilitation.

Terms of reference for the inquiry focus on whether the Hazelwood mine fire "contributed to an increase in deaths, having regard to any relevant evidence for the period 2009 to 2014", the adequacy of rehabilitation liabilities under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (Vic).

The Inquiry will make recommendations in respect of the Anglesea rehabilitation by 31 August 2015, and deliver other findings by March 2016. The Inquiry Panel includes Justice Bernard Teague, Emeritus Professor John Catford and Anita Roper.


Approach to coastal and marine management to be reviewed

The Victorian Government has established an expert panel, chaired by NELA member Professor Geoff Wescott, to identify issues relating to coastal and marine health and to advise the government on new laws to better integrate planning and management of coastal and marine areas.

NELA's Integrated Marine and Coastal Planning committee, which includes Prof Wescott, has advocated this approach for years. We commend the Victorian government for making progress in this area.


Western Australia

DMP launches liability calculator

The Department of Mines and Petroleum has released an online calculator to help tenement holders estimate their rehabilitation liability and the Mining Rehabilitation Fund levy payable on disturbed mining tenements.

The calculator is available here.


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


(Hobart) Geography and Spatial Science Conference

This conference will look at some of the world's most significant problems relating to environmental sustainability: understanding the effects of climate change, management of wilderness regions, food security and the social and cultural importance of space and place. The conference also features a panel on Tasmania's current planning reforms.

When: 10-11 June 2015

Where: School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania

For more information, click here.


(Adelaide) National Workshop on Nuclear Energy

CRC CARE are hosting a workshop exploring the pros and cons of peaceful use of nuclear power in Australia, and the policy issues that such activities give rise to. Speakers include Gavin Mudd, Tim Payne, John O’Connor and Madhava Bhat.

When: 16 June 2015, 8am – 5pm

Where: Hilton Hotel, Adelaide

For more information, click here.


(Sydney) Environment Protection Licensing Seminar

Environment Protection Licences affect over 2,500 sites around NSW, and often impose complex requirements. This seminar, presented by the Australian Sustainable Business Network, is designed to help operators better manage their EPL site by understanding the legal regime, compliance obligations and review options.

When: 25 June 2015

Where: Maddocks, 27/123 Pitt St, Sydney

For more information, click here


(Melbourne) Victoria’s Energy Future

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia has invited Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Hon Lily D’Ambrosio MP, to outline the government’s policies, programs and priorities for the State’s energy sector.

When: 26 June 2015, 11:45am – 2pm

Where: Crown Towers, Southbank

For more information, click here.


(Sydney) Global Conference on Environmental Taxation

The 16th annual Global Conference on Environmental Taxation provides an opportunity to discuss the principles and practices of environmental taxation and other market-based instruments relevant for greening of the economy and a more sustainable development.

When:  23 – 26 September 2015

Where: UTS, Sydney

For more information, click here.


(Sydney) Annual LAWASIA conference

The 28th annual LAWASIA conference focusses on the theme of Cross-Border Law and Practice in the Asia Pacific. A session will be dedicated to Environment and Resources, examining the role of legislation, the legal profession and the courts in balancing environmental and economic concerns, particularly in light of the aspirations of investors in the energy sector.

When: 6-9 November 2015

Where:  Sydney

For more information, click here.


Leaf(Sydney) NELA National Conference

NELA is again partnering with Legalwise to present a gathering of experts to discuss recent and future directions in environmental law.

When:  13 November 2015

Where:  Pullman on Hyde Park, Sydney

Expressions of interest in speaking at this event should be sent to jwily@legalwiseseminars.com.au by 12 June 2015. More information will be available soon!


(Hobart) Indigenous Peoples and Saltwater / Freshwater governance for a sustainable future

The University of Tasmania (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies) and the Australian National University (ANU College of Law) are convening a workshop to bring together scholars and community practitioners to discuss the environmental governance of marine and freshwater areas by and from the perspective of Indigenous peoples.

When: 11-12 February 2016

Where: University of Tasmania, Hobart

The organisers are calling for presenters are participants. For more information, click here


(Hawaii) 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress

Held every four years, the IUCN World Conservation Congress brings together leaders from government, the public sector, non-governmental organizations, business, UN agencies and indigenous and grass-roots organizations to discuss and decide on solutions to the world’s most pressing environment and development challenges.

When: 1 to 10 September 2016

Where: Hawaii Convention Center, Honolulu, Hawaii

The last World Conservation Congress was held in 2012 in Jeju, Republic of Korea. More information about the 2016 Congress will be shared here as it becomes available.


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Open for comment

New South Wales

Landfill guidelines

The draft second edition of the Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste Landfills has been released for public comment. The revised edition has been updated to reflect legislative changes and new technologies and provide more detailed guidance on a range of issues.

Submissions on the draft Guidelines can be made until 30 June 2015. For more information, click here.


Integrated Mining Policy

The government is seeking feedback on the Integrated Mining Policy, which will apply to all State significant mining developments (other than exploration or production of petroleum or coal seam gas). The Integrated Mining Policy proposes to:

  • require information from mine applicants earlier in the assessment process, including the requirement to show how they arrived at their preferred project designs;

  • provide a standard set of Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements for mining applications; and

  • clarify Government policies regarding biodiversity offsets, water regulation and voluntary land acquisition to improve consistency.

Initial consultation relates to the Standard Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs), application guidelines and Policy Framework for Biodiversity Offsets for Upland Swamps and Associated Threatened Species. Further consultation will occur in relation to other Integrated Mining Policy documents in coming months.

Submissions can be made until 9 July 2015. For more information, click here.


Establishing a Gas Community Benefits Fund

The NSW Government has released a Discussion Paper proposing a fund be established to enable communities in which the gas industry operates to receive funds from gas activities. Local projects will be funded by contributions from gas companies and from the NSW Government through a reduced royalty take.

Feedback and suggestions are invited from landholders, communities and stakeholders on options for a preferred model for the fund. Comments can be made until 17 July 2015.

For more information, click here.


Northern Territory

Water Discussion Paper released

The NT Government has released a discussion paper, Our Water Future, examining the impacts on water use and availability as population in the Territory continues to grow, and efforts to implement the National Water Initiative. One of the key objectives of the paper is to commence development of a strategic water management plan for the Territory to manage competing demands for water.

The Discussion Paper seeks comments on issues including water use in mining and petroleum (including hydraulic fracturing), a 'first-in-first-serve' policy for water allocation and strategic reserves for Indigenous economic development and regional employment, water pricing, monitoring and research objectives.

Submissions can be made until 30 June 2015. For more information, click here.



Review of Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement

The Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments have commenced a review of the Tasmanian Regional Forests Agreement. The review will be chaired by Dr Glen Kile, who is expected to deliver recommendations to the Federal parliament by late 2015.

The current RFA is due to expire in 2017. The State and Federal governments have made clear that the review is being conducted in the context of a commitment to "negotiate an extended agreement and establish a 20-year rolling life for the RFA."

The comment period for the review has been extended. Comments can now be made until 12 June 2015. For more information, click here.


Draft Population Strategy for Tasmania

The Department of State Growth is seeking public comment on its Population Discussion Paper, a first step in the development of a Population Strategy for Tasmania. The discussion paper outlines the government's plans to increase Tasmania's population to 650,000 by 2050.

Submissions can be made until 14 June 2015. For more information, click here.


Western Australia

Perth and Peel Plans released

With the population of Perth and Peel expected to reach 3.5 million by 2050, the government has developed draft plans to define the future shape of Perth and Peel and help create a compact, liveable city.

The Perth and Peel @ 3.5million plan identifies potential residential and commercial precincts to accommodate the 3.5 million people who will live in the metropolitan area by 2050.

Comments on the draft Plan must be made by 31 July 2015. For more information, click here.


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Assistance for WA Coastal Management Planning

The Western Australian Planning Commission’s 2015/16 Coastal Management Plan Assistance Program is now open. Applications are invited from coastal land managers for up to $50,000 to assist with the development of strategies, management plans and hazard risk assessments for coastal areas under pressure from a variety of challenges.

Applications close on 30 June 2015. For more information, click here.



Climate Change Law and Policy – intensive winter course

The University of Tasmania is offering an advanced intensive unit on Climate Change Law and Policy, featuring lectures by experts in the field, including NELA President, Professor Jan McDonald. The course is open to current students, as well as those not currently enrolled at university or who have not completed the requisite legal subjects - contact the Law School about participating in the course

When: 22 June 2015 - 12 July 2015 (9 x 4hr seminars over 3 weeks)

Where: Sandy Bay campus, UTAS

For more information, click here.


EDO NSW seeks Communication Coordinator

EDO NSW is looking for a part time Communications Coordinator to promote their services, highlight issues relevant to public interest environmental law, to raise the profile and supporter base for the organisation.

Applications close on 19 June 2015. For more information, click here.


Victorian Sustainability Awards

Victorians who have demonstrated leadership in environmental sustainability are encouraged to enter this year's Premier's Sustainability Awards and share their work. The awards celebrate efficient use of water, resources and energy, better waste management and recycling practices, the enhancement of the environment and practical community action. The categories for this year’s awards are:

  • Built Environment Award

  • Community Award

  • Education Award

  • Environmental Protection Award

  • Government Award

  • Innovative Products or Services Award

  • Large Business Award

  • Small and Medium Enterprises Award

  • Health Award

  • Environmental Justice

  • Premier's Regional Recognition Award

  • Premier's Recognition Award

Entries close on 13 June 2015. For more information, click here.


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Thanks to the NELA Bulletin team

The NELA Bulletin is researched and written entirely by volunteers. This month, we thank the following people for their contributions:

We would also like to express our thanks to outgoing associate editor, Fiona Collin, for her excellent work over many editions, and to wish her well for the next adventure.


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