ozelaw: Australian environmental law

News, commentary, analysis and discussion of environmental law in Australia

Monday, August 07, 2006

More on the Federal Court windfarm challenge

The Australian over the weekend reported that Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has settled a legal challenge to his decision under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to refuse consent for the Bald Hills windfarm, agreeing to orders setting aside his original decision:

Facing legal defeat, Senator Campbell agreed to an offer - foreshadowed last week in The Weekend Australian - from Wind Power Pty Ltd to resubmit the proposal in exchange for dropping its legal challenge. Costs awarded to the company will be footed by taxpayers.

The Federal Court issued consent orders setting aside Senator Campbell's decision to veto the project in Bald Hills, south Gippsland. Under the court order, Senator Campbell will reconsider his decision "according to law", opening the way for the project, which is strongly opposed by many local residents, to win approval.

The report speculates that the Minister may have been advised that he was likely to lose the challenge because of a failure to provide procedural fairness to the company before making the decision:

It is believed Wind Power had been told by government lawyers that it would win the legal challenge because the minister had denied the company natural justice by not showing it the Biosis report before stopping the wind farm.
It will be interesting to see how the decision is remade. I've suggested before that granting consent to the windfarm with conditions that could reduce negative impacts and fund recovery projects for the orange-bellied parrot could allow the windfarm to go ahead and still improve conservation outcomes for the endangered parrot.

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