Strong Environment Laws

The Northern Territory is a special place. Our varied landscapes, communities and lifestyle needs protecting, and one of the best ways to do this is through strong, effective environmental protection laws.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen hundreds of Territorians speak up in support of these laws - calling on the Government to do their job and look after our unique way of life.

But industry lobbyists have been pushing back, calling on government to weaken and delay essential environmental protection laws. For too long, we have seen an ‘anything goes’ approach driven by the same old industry voices, that has left local communities to pick up the pieces of environmental disasters.

Right now, the Gunner Government needs to hear there is public support for strong, effective environmental laws. 

The NT Government released a draft version of the Environment Protection Bill late last year following two months of public and targeted consultation. In response to stakeholder feedback, the government is proposing to make several amendments to the Bill before introducing it to parliament.

The most important changes made to the Bill include:

  • Shifting compliance and enforcement sections to stage two of the reforms.
  • Removing merits review and restricting judicial review.
  • Removing an approval trigger, so there is no automatic approval required of any one project.
  • Clarifying the operation of the principles of ecologically sustainable development
  • Strengthening the consultation requirements and including Aboriginal people in the objects of the Act.

ALEC has been working with the Department of Environment and Natural resources to ensure that the reform continues to be supported by government. Ultimately, we support the Bill but would like to see key improvements being made. These include:

  • Introduce a specific requirement to consider the impact of a project on climate change and vice versa.
  • Commit to properly resourcing the operation of the Act including compliance and enforcement.
  • Outline a clear transition process for projects that are already operational.

Once the Bill is released to Parliament, likely sometime in May, it will be introduced to the Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee. That version of the Bill will then undergo another phase of public consultation that will work through the operational detail of the framework.

This is a critical time for public engagement to ensure that the final design of the Bill delivers on the governments’ commitment to introduce a modern and robust framework of environmental protection. 

Will you write a letter to NT Environment Minister Eva Lawler asking her to act to protect our environment today? 

An email from your personal email account is more effective than an online form letter. Please take a moment to send an email and feel free to include any of the following points:

I call on the NT Government follow through on its commitment implement strong, effective environmental protection laws. 

The draft environmental laws as they were put to the public represent an important step forward for environmental protection in the Territory.

In particular, I call on the Government to implement the following aspects of the originally proposed legislation:

  • For the first time, a new environmental approval granted by the Environment Minister, with an independent environmental assessment process by the Environment Protection Authority.
  • Improved opportunities for public participation and access to information.
  • Strong enforcement and compliance provisions, including civil remedies.
  • Requirement to consider the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
  • Power to declare protected environmental areas and prohibited actions.
  • Establishment of the environment protection levy and environment protection fund.

There remains a number of important opportunities to improve the draft laws before they are introduced to Parliament, including:

  • Retaining open standing for judicial review appeals (cl 254) and third party merits appeal rights (cl 255).
  • Limiting the Minister’s broad power to amend environmental approval conditions (cl 104).
  • Ensuring that the new Act includes appropriate recognition of, and public participation processes for, Aboriginal people and remote communities.
  • Establish a clear process to ensure all actions currently being assessed will be transitioned into the new framework.

All Territorians benefit when our environment is being appropriately cared for. Our government must commit to fully funding robust environmental protections to ensure that our unique landscape can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Feel free to cc Chief Minister Michael Gunner and bcc ALEC

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Protecting the outback and catalysing the essential change needed to tackle climate change and create a sustainable future is a big task and we need your support to do it. Sign up here for more information on how you can support the work of the Arid Lands Environment Centre