Unfortunately the NT Mines and Energy and Planning Minister Dave Tollner made some outrageous comments about the Environment Centre in parliament yesterday. We feel moved to respond in an open letter given that he has used parliament time to attack the Environment Centre for political purposes.
We need you to help us send a message that the environment centre plays a vital role in protecting the places we love in the NT. Send an email to the NT News, or email Dave Tollner (firstname.lastname@example.org) and CC the minister for environment Gary Higgins (email@example.com).
The incident follows one from March last year when Minister Tollner called the environment centre “pack of greenie lefties” who opposed everything except for “tofu” when on air with Stuart Blanch on Mix FM’s 360 program.
Please see our response below.
Dear Minister Tollner,
I have been alerted by one of our members that you stated the following in parliament yesterday in response to questions about PLAN. The following quote is directly from the NT government Hansard for 15 September 2015.
Mr TOLLNER: That is a crazy assertion, Leader of the Opposition and you know that full well. The government funds a plethora of NGOs across the Territory who do valuable work for our community. That is the point is it not, it is about valuable work for our community. When it comes to PLan – I also note last year we ceased funding the Environment Centre in the Northern Territory, because they are a nonsense organisations. They are not about protecting the environment or environmental outcomes, they have done nothing but become a tainted political organisation. I can understand why those opposite are supportive of those groups, because they are out there doing your biding.
On behalf of our members and staff I utterly reject and take offense at your reprehensible, inaccurate and extraordinary description of the Environment Centre as a ‘nonsense organisation’ and a ‘tainted political organisation’. I am disappointed in your apparent complete lack of awareness of what the Environment Centre NT is and does.
The Environment Centre NT is a non-partisan community group, made up of over 300 members and many thousands of supporters who wish to see the Territory’s outstanding natural and cultural assets protected and managed for future generations. We do not take any political sides, however we do unashamedly advocate for better environmental policies and practices. PLAN is also a community group driven by volunteers who wish to see the Territory take a more strategic, thought-out approach to development in the Darwin region. Characterising those very community members so negatively as you did in parliament yesterday for taking an active interest in these areas of community life is not a response worthy of a minister elected to govern for all Territorians and our future generations.
The Environment Centre takes great pride in its evidence-based approach to all of its projects, campaigns and programs. We are working with householders to reduce their energy consumption in the home and increase their uptake of sustainable living. We are working with the Mirarr people of Kakadu to raise the broader community’s awareness of the risks of uranium mining and with people of the Daly and Roper regions to advocate for better water management practices. We are standing up where we see that important ecological, cultural and social values are under threat.
Your statement indicates that a partisan and uninformed decision by you and your government led to total funding cuts by NTEPA this year, contrary to the reasons given by the NTEPA for the funding cuts. This is very concerning given that the NTEPA is supposed to be at arms-length from the NT Government and its politics.
I’m sure you will be pleased to know that despite this, our members and supporters have got behind us to successfully raise over $150,000 to keep our doors open. We have worked very hard, and will continue to fight for good policies and the right to maintain a voice for the environment.
It is not acceptable to me, our staff, volunteers and members for you to use the Environment Centre, or PLAN, as a political football as you did in Parliament yesterday. By the use of these terms you have completely misrepresented a group of dedicated community members who care about the environment.
I would like to suggest that instead, as the responsible Minister for Mines and Energy and Planning, you could be respectful and open to listening to our suggestions as to how you can create better policies and make better decisions which consider the needs of future generations, protect the environment from inappropriate types of development and promote the natural and cultural values of the Territory.
I hope that this letter clarifies the role and mission of the Environment Centre, given that you seem to have received very poor advice on this matter. Should you wish to discuss this matter further, I will, as always, be available to meet with you or one of your staff.