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February 2018 Bulletin

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This Month


01. NELA News
02. NELA Essay Competition
03. Mahla Pearlman Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year
04. Policy Interest Groups

Law & Policy Developments 

05. In the Legislature 
06. Policy Developments & Other News
07. In The Courts
08. Open For Comment  
09. Opportunities


10. (National) Solutions to reverse global warming – speaking tour by Paul Hawken
11. (Ballarat) Energy from Waste Forum  
12. (Perth) DWER Update - Regulatory Reform & Environmental Programs 2018
13. (Melbourne) New environmental laws, climate change and energy developments for business
14. (Hobart) Tasmanian energy forum – from Apple Isle to battery of the nation?
15. (Brisbane) National Sustainability in Business Conference
16. (Canberra) Better Laws for a Better Planet
17. (Hobart) Coast to Coast: Meeting on the Margins
18. (Sydney) Future of Environmental Laws Symposium
19. (Sydney) Mahla Pearlman Oration

NELA News & Events


Welcome to the first edition of the NELA Bulletin for 2018.  We’re looking forward to a strong year for NELA, hosting conferences in the west and the east, commenting on law reform proposals, keeping members up to date, and supporting advocacy for better environmental laws across the country.

There are a number of fantastic environmental law events coming up in the next few months, many with discounts available for NELA members.  In particular, the Law Council’s Future of Environmental Law Symposium and APEEL / Places You Love’s Better Laws for a Better Planet forum will provide opportunities to discuss how current laws are operating, and how they can be improved.

NELA Essay Competition

NELA is very pleased to announce the winner of this year’s essay competition is Amy-Lee Russell, for her essay entitled A Critical Evaluation of the Emissions Reduction Fund. The judging panel commended the paper for its clear writing and well-structured and incisive analysis.  Amy-Lee will receive a cash prize and registration to the NELA conference, and the paper will be submitted for consideration to a professional publication.

The judging panel also nominated Alexandra Haydock as runner-up for her paper entitled Indonesian Fossil Fuel Subsidies and the Climate: A Case Study on Abolishing Energy Subsidies.

NELA thanks all the entrants to this year’s competition, and our judges, Dr Hanna Jaireth and Professor Jan McDonald.

Mahla Pearlman Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year

Do you know a lawyer who is under 35, in private or community practice, working in academia, or engaged in policy work, and doing great things for the environment? Get their achievements recognised by nominating them for the 2018 Mahla Pearlman Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year! 

Nominations close on 2 March 2018. For more information about the award, including past winners, click here.

Policy Interest Groups

Joining NELA’s policy interest groups is a great way to network with colleagues working in your field across the country, and to contribute your expertise to NELA’s policy work in 2018. You can join interest groups on the Members page of our website.

We’re particularly keen for members to share your thoughts on the National Biodiversity Strategy 2018 – 2030, currently out for comment. To provide feedback, email review@nela.org.au

Law & Policy Developments


Release of draft Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox, released a report outlining the framework principles he will present to the Human Rights Council later this year.

If adopted, the principles will require signatory States to commit to a range of objectives, including:

  • Recognising the interdependence of respecting human rights and ensuring a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment;
  • Respecting and protecting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in relation to environmental matters, and facilitating genuine public participation in decision-making related to the environment;
  • Providing for education and public awareness on environmental matters;
  • Collecting and providing public access to environmental information;
  • Establishing substantive, non-regressive environmental standards, and ensuring they are enforced;
  • Protecting the rights of those most vulnerable to environmental harm; and
  • Ensuring obligations to indigenous peoples and members of traditional communities are met.


Amendments to Murray Darling Basin Plan disallowed

On 14 February 2018, the Senate voted to disallow amendments to the Murray Darling Basin Plan that increased allocations to farmers and reduced the environmental water target from 390 billion litres to 320 billion litres. Since the disallowance, the Victorian and NSW governments have indicated they are considering withdrawing from the Plan. 

Further amendments to the sustainable diversion limits are scheduled for consideration on 7 May 2018.


Soil carbon projects to earn ERF credits

Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, has gazetted a new ERF methodology for farm soil carbon projects, extending the previous approve methodology beyond grazing lands to land used for cropping and horticulture.  The new method also requires accredited projects to be subject to a land management strategy endorsed by an independent person.

For more information about the gazetted methodology, click here.


Amendments proposed to allow carbon capture storage investment

Amendments have been proposed to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act to remove the prohibition on the CEFC investing in carbon capture and storage technologies. The Bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 8 May 2018.

Comments on the draft Bill can be made until 13 March 2018. For more information about the Bill and how to comment, click here.


Planning and Land Management Bill progresses through Senate

On 8 February 2018, the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Amendment Bill 2017 was passed by the Senate.  The Bill seeks to improve the governance, transparency and accountability of the National Capital Authority to enable better management of places of Commonwealth interest in Canberra.

The Bill will now proceed to the House of Representatives for consideration.

For more information about the Bill, click here.

New South Wales

Amendments to the EPA Act to take effect

The first suite of changes brought about by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act 2017 will commence on 1 March 2018, including the re-enactment and expansion of local planning panels.  The changes will also result in re-numbering o many provisions.

Other changes, such as changes to statement of reasons obligations, enforceable undertakings and community participation panels, will commence in stages until mid 2020.

To read the consolidated Act as it will take effect on 1 March 2018, click here.  For a full schedule of commencement stages, click here.


Fruit fly outbreak leaks to declaration of control zones

Following detection of fruit fly larvae in northern Tasmania, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment declared several locations on Flinders Island and Acacia Hills as Infected Areas, and the Furneaux Island group and greater Devonport to be Control Areas.  The declarations outline specific control measures restricting movement, transport and supply of fruit, and several loads of controlled produced have since been seized.

For more information, click here.


Bill proposes special management for “distinctive areas and landscapes”

The Planning and Environment Amendment (Distinctive Areas and Landscapes) Bill 2017 was introduced into the Victorian Parliament on 14 December 2017, but is yet to be debated.  The Bill provides for the declaration of distinctive areas and landscapes, and development of localised Statement of Planning Policy for declared areas to ensure coordinated decision-making.

The transitional provisions of the proposed laws provide that, if the Macedon Ranges region is declared, consultation on the Macedon Ranges Draft Localised Planning Statement (open for comment until 19 February 2018) can be used to satisfy the consultation requirements under the Act.

Policy Developments & Other News


Nominations Open for matters of National Environmental Significance

Nominations for the 2018-2019 assessment of new places for inclusion in the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List are open until 26 February 2018. For a nomination kit, click here.

Nominations are also invited for species, ecological communities or key threatening processes to be considered for listing under the EPBC Act. Accepted nominations will progress to assessment by the Scientific Committee later in 2018. Nominations can be made until 30 March 2018. For a nomination kit, click here.


Report on modernising the electricity grid released

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy has released a report, Powering Our Future, following its inquiry into modernising Australia's electricity grid. The report sets out a number of recommendations supported by all members of the Committee, recognising calls for a consensus approach to energy policy. 

Recommendations include:

  • Electricity emissions reduction targets align with Australia's international commitments and national efforts to achieve 'net zero' emissions by 2050
  • Establishing renewable energy zones
  • National roll-out of smart meters
  • The Minister for the Environment and Energy provide more resources for small businesses to understand energy efficiency options, audit large manufacturers to identify opportunities to improve efficiency, and provide more incentives to cut consumption during peak demand periods.


Environmental licence for New Acland extension refused

On 14 February 2018, the Queensland government announced that it had refused to provide an environmental licence for the New Acland coalmine extension, accepting the recommendation made by the Land Court in May 2017 that the mine would have unacceptable impacts on groundwater.

In June 2017, New Acland Coal filed an application for judicial review of the Land Court recommendation.  The hearing of that review is set to commence on 19 March 2018.

For more information about this case, click here.


Great Barrier Reef Innovation Fund

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy have announced a $1M fund to support “innovative solutions to quickly restore the ecological functions provided by the Great Barrier Reef.”

Individual contracts to conduct feasibility studies for proposals are not expected to exceed $250,000, with a further pool of funding available to develop the best solutions through to Proof of Concept.

Applications for the Feasibility stage close at 2.00pm on 6 March 2018. For more information, click here.

South Australia

Renewable energy funding announcements

The State Government has announced almost $9 million in funding, delivered through its Renewable Technology Fund, for pumped hydro projects at reservoirs and disused mine sites near Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Germein, expected to add 750MW to the grid.

With Tesla, the Government has also announced plans to roll out a network of up to 50,000 home solar and battery systems across the state over the next four years, creating the world's largest Virtual Power Plant.


New landfill assessment and monitoring guides

The Victorian EPA has released two guidelines to assist local councils managing landfills to avoid or manage environmental harm:

Western Australia

One-stop shop for water and environmental assessments and approvals

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has developed a “one-stop shop” for water and environmental assessments and approvals. Project applicants requiring environmental and water approvals can now engage with the Department through a single contact point.

For more information, click here.


Increase in the number of development proposals requiring environmental assessment

The EPA has reported that in the first five months of 2017-2018 there were 15 development proposals warranting formal assessment. If the trend continues, the EPA expects an estimated 50% increase in the number of proposals assessed in 2016-2017. The increase has been attributed to an increase in iron ore mining activity in the Pilbara, new irrigated agriculture projects in the State’s North, and new mines for resources like lithium and tungsten.

For more information, click here.

In The Courts

New South Wales

Climate challenge to Wilpinjong coal expansion

From 8 – 12 February 2018, the Land and Environment Court heard argument in the Wollar Progress Association’s challenge to the Planning Assessment Commission’s decision to allow the extension of the Wilpinjong open cut coal mine near Mudgee. The applicant group argued that the approval was invalid on the basis that the PAC did not adequately consider the likely greenhouse emissions of the mine, including downstream emissions, as required by the SEPP and the zero net emissions target commitment under the Climate Change Policy Framework.

For details of the case, click here.


Excavation for commercial development classified as “quarry”

The Full Court of the Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that a project may be classified as a ‘Level 2 activity’ (that is, one requiring assessment by the EPA) even when the activity is only a component of a larger development which would not otherwise require assessment. The Court held that a proposed mixed-use commercial building and underground parking could be characterised as a “quarry” based on the substantial excavation works involved in construction.

To read the decision in Sultan Holdings Pty Ltd v John Fuglsang Developments Pty Ltd [2017] TASFC 14, click here.

Open For Comment


National phase out of PFOS

The Department of the Environment and Energy has released a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on options for a national phase out of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and related chemicals. The consultation seeks additional data and information to refine and improve the assumptions in the RIS regarding ongoing uses of PFOS, stockpiles, destruction, and waste management capacity.

Comments can be made until 26 February 2018. For more information, click here.


Draft Revision of Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy

Following a review of Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy: 2010 – 2030 in 2017, a working group of local, State and Federal government officials prepared a revised Strategy to “improve its ability to drive change in biodiversity management priorities, and its alignment with Australia's international biodiversity commitments.” However, green groups have criticised the revised Strategy, describing it as wholly inadequate to address biodiversity decline.

The revised strategy, Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030: Australia’s biodiversity conservation strategy and action inventory, is available for public comment until 16 March 2018. For more information, click here.


The ACT Government’s discussion paper on actions to include in a strategy to achieve the target of net zero emissions by 2050 (including interim targets) has been released.

Comments on the paper can be made until 9 April 2018. For more information, click here.

New South Wales

Regional Forest Agreements Review

The NSW and Australian governments have prepared an implementation report that combines the second and third five-year reviews of NSW’s Regional Forest Agreements (Eden, southern and North-East), covering the period 2004-2014.

Public comments on the implementation reports can be made until 23 February 2018. For more information, click here.


Remediation of Land SEPP

A new draft Remediation of Land State Environment Planning Policy has been released for comment. The draft SEPP seeks to provide for better management of contaminated land by making remediation requirements permissible regardless of any contrary provisions in environmental management documents.

Comments can be made until 31 March 2018. For more information, click here.

Northern Territory

Draft coastal and marine strategy

Submissions are invited on a discussion paper for a proposed coastal and marine management strategy.

Comments can be made until 2 March 2018. For more information, click here.


New water quality regulations for Great Barrier Reef

Subsequent to the close of earlier consultation on the Queensland Government’s discussion paper on Enhancing regulations to ensure clean water for a healthy Great Barrier Reef and a prosperous Queensland, the 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement: Land use impacts on Great Barrier Reef water quality and ecosystem condition has confirmed that water quality remains one of the biggest risks to reef health and that current voluntary programs and actions will not meet required water quality targets.

The government has re-opened consultation on a discussion paper and proposed regulations that would impose water quality offset requirements on farmers and industries in Reef catchments. The proposed changes would also entail setting catchment-specific load limits for nutrients and sediments in the catchments of Cape York, the Wet Tropics, Mackay Whitsunday, the Burdekin, Fitzroy and the Burnett Mary.

Comments can be made until 19 February 2018. For more information, click here

South Australia

Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary management plan

A draft management plan for the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park is available for public comment. The draft plan outlines proposed park boundaries and identifies management strategies to achieve the park’s conservation objectives.

Comments can be made until 16 April 2018. For more information, click here.

Western Australia

Waste Strategy review

The Waste Authority is reviewing WA’s Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy and has prepared a consultation paper which sets out proposed amendments.

The proposals include the introduction of three new objectives: to minimise the environmental impact of waste, to reduce the generation of waste, and to increase the recovery of resources from waste. The consultation paper sets out actions that should be taken to achieve those objectives and identifies waste generation and resource recovery targets. The proposed targets would bring WA's waste generation in line with the national average, and aim to recycle or recover 75% of all waste by 2030.

Comments on the proposed amendments can be made until 1 March 2018. For more information, click here.


Plastic bag ban discussion paper

Public comments have been invited on a discussion paper proposing a statewide ban of lightweight single-use plastic bags from 1 July 2018.

Comments on the paper can be made until 9 March 2018. For more information, click here


Fracking Inquiry Background and Issues Paper

The Independent Scientific Panel Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation in WA has released a Background and Issues Paper. In September, the WA Government banned fracking in the Perth Metropolitan, Peel and South-West regions, and put in place a moratorium for the rest of the State. The Panel is inquiring into the potential impacts of fracking on the onshore environment in regions currently under moratorium.

In particular, the Panel is seeking information on:

  • the environmental values potentially at risk from unconventional oil and gas developments involving fracking;
  • data or other evidence that might inform a scientific risk analysis of those impacts, with an emphasis on local geographies and geologies, and local evidence from WA; and
  • reflections or experience on what a regulatory framework should ideally look like if the Government lifts the current moratorium.

Submissions can be made until 19 March 2018. For more information, click here.


EJA seeks experienced litigation lawyer

Environmental Justice Australia is looking for an experienced lawyer to join their team in Melbourne as a principal lawyer. Applications close on 5 March 2018.

For details, click here. For more information, contact Brendan Sydes, CEO – brendan.sydes@envirojustice.org.au


(National) Solutions to reverse global warming – speaking tour by Paul Hawken 

Project Drawdown executive director Paul Hawken will be speaking at various events around Australia throughout February, including:

(Ballarat) Energy from Waste Forum

The third annual forum will focus on a critical element of the waste to energy industry; Building the case for waste to energy as a strategy and for a waste to energy project.

When: 20-22 February 2018

Where: Mercure Ballarat Hotel and Convention Centre, Ballarat

For more information, click here.

(Perth) DWER Update - Regulatory Reform & Environmental Programs 2018

The Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (WA Division) is hosting a presentation by Mr Mike Rowe, Director General of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER), on the progress of DWER since its commencement on 1 July 2017, the science programs within DWER that support the policy development and licensing functions, and the plans for DWER in 2018.

When: 21 February 2018

Where: Herbert Smith Freehills, Perth

For more information, click here.

(Melbourne) New environmental laws, climate change and energy developments for business 

Join the Australian Environment Business Network for a conference to discuss legal changes anticipated over the next 12 months in climate and energy regulation. The event will be followed by networking drinks

When: 2 March 2018

Where: AECOM Meeting Room, Collins Square, Tower 2

For more information, click here.

(Hobart) Tasmanian energy forum – from Apple Isle to battery of the nation? 

Join the Energy Users Association of Australia for an afternoon seminar discussing the role that Tasmania is likely to play in national energy supply in coming decades, and what that means for the broader energy market.

When: 8 March 2018, 2:00pm

Where: Hotel Grand Chancellor

For more information, click here

(Brisbane) National Sustainability in Business Conference

The second annual conference will explore sustainability best practice within organisations, creating resilience in business and ways to implement change. The sustainability topics that will be embraced by our speakers will include integration, politics, technology, automation, future of renewables, procurement, food security, sustainable construction and waste as a resource.

When: 8-9 March 2018

Where: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Brisbane

For more information, click here.

Header (Canberra) Better Laws for a Better Planet

Almost 20 years since the EPBC Act commenced, the condition of Australia’s natural and cultural environment continues to decline across most indicators. Join Places You Love, the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law, ACIUCN and NELA for a symposium bringing together experts from across disciplines and sectors to discuss the key challenges, opportunities and directions for the next generation of environment laws.

Full program to be announced.

When: 27 March 2018

Where: University House, ANU

For more information and registration details, click here.

(Hobart) Coast to Coast: Meeting on the Margins

The 14th biennial Coast to Coast conference is an opportunity to take stock in the face of many governments retreating from coastal management, and to rejuvenate discussion and rebuild a national community of coastal practitioners. The conference will feature presentations from government, research, natural resource management, community organisations and consultants working on coastal issues.

When: 16-20 April 2018

Where: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart

For full program details and registration information, click here.

(Sydney) Future of Environmental Laws Symposium 

The Law Council's Australian Environment and Planning Law Group will be hosting the 2018 Environmental Law Symposium, featuring talks from Justice Brian Preston SC, Greg McIntyre SC, Kevin Smith and Dr Rebecca Nelson, and a special presentation to honour Hon Justice Murray Wilcox AO QC’s contribution to environmental law.

The Symposium will be followed by the Mahla Pearlman Oration and awarding of the Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year, and a Symposium dinner.

When: 19 April 2018, 11:00am

Where: New South Wales Law Society 

For more information, click here.

(Sydney) Mahla Pearlman Oration 

The Law Council and the Environment and Planning Law Association of NSW will host the annual Mahla Pearlman Oration, this year delivered by the former Chief Justice of the High Court, Hon Robert French AC. The Oration will be followed by the awarding of the Mahla Pearlman Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year.

When: 19 April 2018, 5:00pm

Where: Federal Court of NSW

For more information, click here.


The NELA Bulletin is researched and written entirely by volunteers. This month, we thank the following contributors:

  • Jess Feehely - editor
  • Rosie Phillips – contributor, WA
  • Sarah Wilson - contributor, Tas
  • Laura Harle – contributor, Cth, ACT and NT
  • Callum Jones - contributor, NSW, Vic and SA