Environmental Defenders Office suffers potentially-fatal cut

THOSE wanting to challenge mining or gas developments risk losing a crucial ally as the Federal Government's latest round of funding cuts gut the income of the Environmental Defenders Office in each state, with most likely to now shut their doors.

The EDO provide legal help for community or environmental groups wanting to challenge anything that could prove destructive to the environment.

In the budget update released on Tuesday, the government has opted to cut two streams of funding for the EDO that will save about $12 million over four years.

Branches in North Queensland, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, South Australian and Western Australia are likely to be unable to survive the cuts.

Offices in Queensland, NSW and Victoria are more likely to survive, although the Queensland branch expects it will need to raise $400,000 to continue its work

Queensland's state office in Brisbane is currently working alongside environmental activists to challenge an enormous coal mine slated for the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland after farmers and activists feared it could disrupt water bores and add to global warming.

In New South Wales, its work led to the Land and Environment Court rejecting a contentious mine at Bulga, north-west of Newcastle. It also has a long history of offering advice and legal help to those affected by looming gas developments.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Senator George Brandis said while activists had a right to challenge these activities, it was "not appropriate" for that to be paid for by taxpayers.

EDO Queensland principal solicitor Jo Bragg has worked in the office for two decades, she suspected the government has been swayed by the resources industry.

At a time when Queensland was considering massive port expansions near the Great Barrier Reef and enormously contentious coal projects, Ms Bragg said EDO helped people protect themselves.

"It's a really, really bad time to be de-funding EDOs," Ms Bragg said.

"We provide legal assistance to clients, environment groups and community groups to exercise their rights under legislation to scrutinise big development and mines.

"Mining companies pay lawyers millions to support their projects. It's only fair for community groups to have help."


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