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Environment Centre NT - protecting nature, living sustainably, creating climate for a change

Media release: NT Conservationists welcome introduction of Environment Protection Bill

Conservationists welcomed the introduction of the Territory Government’s Environment Protection Bill to parliament today, citing broad community support for new laws to protect the natural environment and Territory way of life. [1]

“Strong environmental protections for the Northern Territory are a step closer today,” said Shar Molloy, director of the Environment Centre NT (ECNT).

“The Northern Territory has the weakest environmental protection laws in the country. For too long, these weak laws have paved the way for destructive development and shut the community out of important decisions.”

“It’s time for that to change. Healthy coasts, rivers and natural landscapes are central to our way of life, our culture and our livelihoods, and deserve to be better protected,” said Ms Molloy.

“These laws could be significantly improved by including provisions to comply with our responsibility under international law to require free prior informed consent. This will help ensure that Aboriginal people can have a genuine say about the development that is appropriate for their communities.”

During the consultation period on the proposed laws, more than 85 per cent of submissions supported the NT Government’s commitment to introduce modern and effective environmental laws. [2]

“Over the years, we’ve seen firsthand the impacts of the Territory’s weak environmental laws,” said Jimmy Cocking, director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC).

“From the MacArthur River to Pine Creek, our landscapes are littered with the legacy of an ‘anything goes’ approach to industrial development. Too often, local communities and taxpayers are left to bear the burden of this destructive development when industry walks away from their responsibilities.” [3]

“Across the NT we are facing a number of mining projects that have been assessed and approved under the old regime. We need to modernise our environmental protection laws now and ensure these projects are included under the new system.”

“The introduction of the proposed laws to parliament is an important step in the right direction, but we must be vigilant to ensure that industry lobbyists do not further undermine the protections contained in the draft legislation,” said Mr Cocking.” [4]

“With development pressures intensifying every year, including massive fracking proposals, we need strong laws to protect the natural values and way of life that make the Territory such a special place.”

“Government needs to stay the course and deliver on its commitment to deliver fair and effective environmental laws, and spell out clear timelines for legislating stage two of these reforms rather than pandering to self-interested industry lobbyists,” said Mr Cocking.

It is expected that the Environment Protection Bill will be reviewed by a parliamentary committee and debated by parliament in August 2019. Conservationists will be calling for further improvements to the proposed legislation, including mandatory consideration of climate impacts.

Notes:

[1]            Key features of the proposed laws include:

  • For the first time, environmental approvals by the Environment Minister.
  • Independent assessment of proposals by the Environment Protection Authority.
  • Improved opportunities for public participation and access to information.
  • Expanded compliance and enforcement powers, including civil remedies.

[2]            NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources (2019) Outcomes of consultation on the draft Environment Protection Bill and Regulations.

[3]            For example: ABC News, NT government failures allowed environmentally damaging mining to continue ‘unchecked’, 4 May 2019. URL: www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-04/frances-creek-mining-mine-decision-nt-government-failures/11078994.

[4]            ECNT and ALEC previously condemned a decision by the NT Government to remove community merits review rights from the draft legislation: New environment protection laws threatened by industry interference, October 2018. URL: www.ecnt.org.au/media-release-new-environment-protection-laws-threatened-by-industry-interference.

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