Environmental Defenders Office

Environment groups say new land-clearing laws, expected to be put before the Queensland parliament this week, contain loopholes that could allow the continued clearing of high-value vegetation where landowners have already “locked in” their vegetation maps.

Queensland is responsible for more land clearing than the rest of the country combined. Rates of clearing surged when the former Liberal National Party (LNP) government under Premier Campbell Newman scrapped restrictions in December 2013.

Justice Peter Applegarth of the Supreme Court rejected on June 23 the application by New Acland Coal (NAC) for judicial review of the Queensland Land Court’s decision, which recommended rejecting the Stage 3 expansion of the New Hope Mine. He said he was not satisfied irreparable harm would be caused to New Acland Coal and other third parties if a stay was not ordered.

The controversial Adani Carmichael coalmine was granted an unlimited 60-year water licence by the Queensland government on March 29. Environmentalists fear the mine will drain huge amounts of water from the Great Artesian Basin and say it is yet another example of governments giving the mine special treatment.

The federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg has again approved the use of a marine supply base at Port Melville in the Tiwi Islands without an environmental impact assessment and with none of the environmental conditions that were previously imposed.

A spokesperson for Frydenberg said on December 15: “The department has decided the operation of a marine supply base at Port Melville is not likely to have a significant impact on the environment and can proceed without further assessment under national environment law.

The Federal Court has overturned the federal government’s decision to allow a $180 million deep sea port on Melville Island near Darwin without an environmental assessment.

Approval of the Port Melville oil and gas marine supply base on the banks of the near pristine Apsley Strait was reversed on October 21 after legal action by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) on behalf of Environment Centre NT (ECNT).

The decision means the operation of the base at Port Melville now has no Commonwealth approval and all operations must cease.  

The Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO), on behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), lodged an appeal on September 19 against the Federal Court’s finding in August that then-environment minister Greg Hunt’s approval of Adani’s Carmichael coalmine was lawful.

The appeal challenges the lawfulness of the court’s finding that the minister was entitled to find the impact on global warming and the Great Barrier Reef from the Carmichael mine’s 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions was “speculative”.

The NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee is keen on new anti-protest laws in NSW. He claims to be concerned about the safety of the workers as well as the protesters “illegally accessing mine sites”.

Mining and Energy Minister Antony Roberts has been a little more blunt: he says the new law is aimed at better enforcing the protection of private property and “lawful business activity”.

Most, however, can see through the spin.

On March 2, two Gamilaraay men, Paul Spearim and Allen Talbot, and a Githabul man, Laurence Miles, locked on to concrete barrels at the entrance to Whitehaven's controversial Maules Creek coalmine, stopping work.

The action followed protests earlier in the week, with one man stopping coal trains near Willow Tree and three others locked to bulldozers.

The residents of the tiny Hunter Valley village of Bulga have applied to have the Planning Assessment Commission’s (PAC) approval of a Rio Tinto coalmine expansion declared invalid due to a legal error.

The Environmental Defenders Office’s chief executive officer Sue Higginson, who is running the case, said: "This is an appeal not based on the merit of whether this mine should go ahead or not, but based on whether the PAC has applied the law as it applies to mining projects in high biodiversity areas."

Environment groups have welcomed the passage of legislation on November 12 that restricts sea dumping and port expansion in the Great Barrier Reef heritage area as a victory for people power.

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