Cli­mate change on trial

Court hear­ing a ‘test case’ on land clear­ing in the NT


THE En­vi­ron­ment Cen­tre NT has fronted the Supreme Court in a bid to scotch the clear­ing of more than 20,000ha of land it says will re­lease up to three mil­lion tones of green­house gas into the at­mos­phere.

The Pas­toral Re­view Board last year ap­proved an ap­pli­ca­tion from Mary­field Sta­tion to clear the land 550km south­east of Dar­win, mak­ing way for the largest sin­gle de­for­esta­tion in NT his­tory.

But ECNT di­rec­tor Shar Mol­loy said the log­ging was ap­proved without an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact assess­ment af­ter the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity “failed to prop­erly con­sider cli­mate change”.

“The North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s en­vi­ron­ment is one of the things that makes where we live so spe­cial, that’s why there is deep com­mu­nity con­cern when they hear about de­for­esta­tion at such a large scale,” she said. “It’s es­pe­cially con­cern­ing when we note the lack of ef­fec­tive safe­guards and pro­cesses within the very agen­cies tasked with as­sess­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of these de­ci­sions.”

Ms Mol­loy said the fact the Ter­ri­tory Gov­ern­ment did not have an emis­sions or cli­mate change pol­icy “should not be used as an ex­cuse for a reg­u­la­tor (not) to do its job of pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment”.

“It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the EPA to make its de­ci­sions ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion that does ex­ist, not­with­stand­ing the ab­sence of a cli­mate change pol­icy,” she said.

“It’s very clear this hasn’t oc­curred in this in­stance.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fend­ers Of­fice lawyer Gil­lian Dug­gin, rep­re­sent­ing ECNT, said the court ac­tion was “an im­por­tant test case” on the EPA’s obli­ga­tion to con­sider cli­mate change and eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity in grant­ing clear­ing per­mits.

“While it has many flaws, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Assess­ment Act does im­pose a se­ri­ous task on the EPA,” she said.

“The EPA must de­cide whether or not a project is ca­pa­ble of hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment and if so, re­quire an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact assess­ment. In re­la­tion to Mary­field Sta­tion, our client ar­gues that the EPA did not prop­erly dis­charge its de­ci­sion-mak­ing role in ac­cor­dance with the law.”

An EPA spokesman de­clined to com­ment while the case was be­fore the court.

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