Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
The community’s ability to access free legal advice for public interest environmental matters has been put at risk by the NSW Government’s refusal to commit its support for EDO NSW (also known as the Environmental Defender’s Office).

EDO NSW today confirmed that it will have to start slashing community services – covering urban, rural and regional and indigenous communities - and could close its doors altogether unless a funding crisis is averted.

“It is incomprehensible to us, that at a time when the NSW Government’s claims to want to re-engage the community in planning and local decision making, they are considering cutting funding to the one organisation in the State that is designed to empower community to participate in Government reforms and processes on planning and environmental issues,” Mr Jeff Smith, Executive Director of EDO NSW said.

There is an immediate threat to EDO NSW’s main source of funding, the Public Purpose Fund administered by the Law Society of NSW (PPF), which has been supporting EDO NSW to provide public interest legal advice to the community since 1996.

“In recent days, we have been notified that the amount of our PPF funding has been cut by a quarter from 1 January 2013 and it is only allocated until the end of March 2013.” Mr Smith said.

“Of more concern, we understand that the funding principles for the PPF are being reviewed.”

Now, after an attack on EDO NSW from the NSW Minister for Resources and Energy in The Australian newspaper, EDO NSW has learnt that the NSW Government is reviewing its funding for the organisation. These latest comments follow an unprecedented series of attacks over several months in the NSW Parliament by the Shooters and Fishers Party, by the National Civic Council, and in The Australian, questioning EDO NSW’s funding and its role in providing the community with independent legal advice on public interest environmental issues.

Mr Smith called on the NSW Government to reaffirm and maintain its support for the work of EDO NSW, both through continuing its own funding allocations and supporting PPF grants to EDO NSW.

“This trend of seeking to diminish funding to an organisation that exists to empower community engagement in environmental matters is alarming, and the increasing uncertainty is very damaging. Declining and only short-term funding makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to maintain a strong, independent EDO NSW, that can support its clients, and operate free of the politics of the day, while handling often sensitive legal cases and environment issues. If our PPF funding is not restored then EDO NSW as the people of NSW have known it for nearly three decades will be decimated if not destroyed,” Mr Smith continued

In recent days EDO NSW has:
• Written to all NSW Government Ministers and MPs to set the record straight about the role and work of EDO NSW
• Also written to thousands of community and legal fraternity supporters advising them that the survival of EDO is under threat
• Written to the PPF Trustees seeking an urgent meeting to clarify any outstanding concerns

Mr. Smith said: “It would be a travesty if the community's number one source of public interest environmental and planning law advice and support was wiped out right at the time the NSW Government claims to want to restore public confidence and community participation in the NSW planning system after the dark days of fast-tracking major projects under Part 3A.

“If the current situation goes unchanged, it means we will have to lay off most of our valuable, highly professional and committed staff early in the New Year, and begin dramatically scaling back or shutting down our very popular community services.”

Contact Profile


Established in 1985 EDO NSW (formerly known as the Environmental Defenders Office of NSW) has a head office in Sydney and a regional office in Lismore in northern NSW. Its community services include:
• Free legal advice telephone line – we took nearly 1500 calls last year
• Community workshops – 95 across NSW in the past three years, with about 95% in rural and regional areas
• Rural and regional work – a major focus for the past 10 years, with a regional office in Lismore, and support to communities on key issues like water plans, coal seam gas, mining, native vegetation, private conservation and local planning
• Indigenous program – unique support to the Aboriginal community on cultural and heritage legal issues
• Education and publishing – major guides/handbooks, and 40 much-used Fact Sheets, and a major new guide on mining set to be published
• Policy and law reform – including extensive inputs to the current major reform of NSW planning laws, with 2400 hits on EDO NSW’s online guide to the Green Paper
• Court cases and mediation – ensuring high quality cases get heard and unmeritorious cases with poor prospects are filtered out - which benefits the system, and has led to many important planning law cases on behalf of communities from the cities to the bush
Jeff Smith
P: 0428262010
W: www.edonsw.org.au


EDO NSW, Environmental Defender's Office, environment, NSW Government, funding



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