‘Climate change doesn’t stop at any border’: NFP legal watchdog steps up environmental fight
26 November 2019 at 8:31 am
The national body promises to fight high profile court cases to uphold public interest and protect communities
The environment watchdog’s state offices have joined forces to become the largest community legal centre for the environment in the Asia-Pacific in a bid to better uphold Australian environment laws.
The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) announced on Thursday its eight state and territory offices would roll into one national organisation to provide stronger and more stable legal protection for nature in Australia.
David Morris, EDO CEO, told Pro Bono News the cases the organisation was working on, such as protecting the Murray Darling Basin, didn’t “respect arbitrary lines drawn on a map” and often crossed state lines.
“The Murray-Darling crisis spans four jurisdictions. Our iconic koalas are dying right up and down the east coast. Climate change doesn’t stop at any border,” Morris said.
“Now more than ever, national leadership is required to protect Australia’s natural and cultural heritage.”
He said while Australia had some good environmental laws, they were routinely ignored and EDO had an obligation to step up to the challenge of protecting natural environments and the communities within them.
“The government hasn’t played a strong enough role in ensuring that people adhere to the law… and so we’ve come out and proposed a platform where we’re going to step in and play that role,” he said.
“As a merged, national organisation we can share expertise, more closely scrutinise projects and address the widespread culture of non-compliance with environment laws.”
Morris said EDO would represent everyone from farmers and traditional owners to charities because it was important that Australians were able to exercise their legal rights regardless of their background or financial capability.
“We are currently acting on behalf of the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians to defend their sacred sites that would be destroyed by the Shenhua Watermark Coal Mine. In Queensland, we are working with the farming community at Acland whose precious groundwater is under threat from open-cut mining,” he said.
He added that operating at a national level would make way for more partnerships with civil society and advocacy groups working in the environment space.
“The EDO often acts on behalf of civil society and advocacy groups, but I think increasingly we will be working in partnership with these groups to achieve lawful outcomes,” he said.