Climate change on trial in NT Supreme Court
THE Environment Centre NT has fronted the Supreme Court in a bid to stop the clearing of more than 20,000ha of land it says will release up to three million tones of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
The Pastoral Review Board last year approved an application from Maryfield Station to clear the land 550km southeast of Darwin, making way for the largest single deforestation in NT history.
But ECNT director Shar Molloy said the logging was approved without an environmental impact assessment after the Environment Protection Authority "failed to properly consider climate change".
"The Northern Territory's environment is one of the things that makes where we live so special, that's why there is deep community concern when they hear about deforestation at such a large scale," she said.
"It's especially concerning when we note the lack of effective safeguards and processes within the very agencies tasked with assessing the environmental impact of these decisions."
Ms Molloy said the fact the Territory Government did not have an emissions or climate change policy "should not be used as an excuse for a regulator (not) to do its job of protecting the environment".
"It is the responsibility of the EPA to make its decisions according to the legislation that does exist, notwithstanding the absence of a climate change policy," she said.
"It's very clear this hasn't occurred in this instance."
Environmental Defenders Office lawyer Gillian Duggin, representing ECNT, said the court action was "an important test case" on the EPA's obligation to consider climate change and ecological sustainability in granting clearing permits.
"While it has many flaws, the Environmental Assessment Act does impose a serious task on the EPA," she said.
"The EPA must decide whether or not a project is capable of having a significant effect on the environment and if so, require an environmental impact assessment. In relation to Maryfield Station, our client argues that the EPA did not properly discharge its decision-making role in accordance with the law."
An EPA spokesman declined to comment while the case was before the court.