IT was devastating to hear the survival of the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) is being threatened by NSW state government funding reviews.
The EDO is an independent not-for-profit legal centre established nearly 30 years ago with a focus on supporting communities in rural and regional NSW. I am aware of many regional groups who have knocked on the EDO’s door for guidance as they struggle with the complexities of the NSW planning system and are daunted by developers with deep pockets and political “connections”.
Through my involvement with The Hub Action Group, I have had the opportunity to work closely with the EDO. I truly admire their genuine passion and commitment to promote environmental justice and achieve positive environmental outcomes for future generations.
The EDO gave our small community group the confidence and framework to stand up for ourselves and the environment and challenge the might of two local government authorities, a succession of ministers for planning (notably Frank Sartor and Tony Kelly) and the former minister for primary industries Ian Macdonald.
Our combined efforts achieved:
l A landmark Land and Environment Court decision which set new benchmarks for waste management in NSW.
l The scrapping of Orange City Council’s original Hub super tip proposal which leading environmental experts had labelled a “dinosaur”.
l The Department of Planning eventually changing the rules to render it virtually impossible for future developers to get approval to dig a big new hole for rubbish on productive agricultural land.
l Significant environmental improvement to both Orange’s existing Ophir waste facility as well as the controversial Molong facility.
Above all, the EDO helped give the people a voice in the big end of town.
The potential funding cuts are in direct conflict with the O’Farrell government’s pre-election rhetoric on planning system reform and their promise to give power back to the people after the Part 3A debacle.
Unless we demonstrate our concern, the only source of independent expert public interest legal advice in the minefield of the NSW planning system will disappear.
You never know when you may need the EDO - I didn’t think I ever would.
If you have any sense of environmental justice I urge you to contact Andrew Gee MP and Premier O’Farrell. For other ways to show your support, go to www.edo.org.au/edonsw.