EDO NQ has limited resources and seeks to maximise the use of these resources for the benefit of the environmental protection and conservation. EDO NQ provides services in connection with public interest environmental issues arising in its service area: the geographic area of Northern Queensland from Mackay, out west to Mt Isa, north to include Cape York and the Torres Straits a,d east across the Great Barrier Reef to the Coral Sea.
EDO NQ's key objectives are:
- To empower the community to protect the environment through law and through use of the legal process recognising:
- the suffering, distress and disempowerment that result from environmental harm and an inability to obtain legal advice, assistance and representation in relation to it;
- the importance of public participation in environmental decision making to achieve environmental protection;
- the importance of fostering close links with the community and ensuring the Association is responsive to community needs;
- the importance of indigenous involvement in protection of the environment.
- To provide legal representation, advice and information to those who are otherwise unable to afford it, in connection with the conservation, protection and enhancement of the environment;
- To provide community educational programs in matters relating to environmental law and environmental policy;
- To undertake law reform activities contributing to the conservation, protection and enhancement of the environment.
A set of Casework Guidelines have been prepared to enable EDO NQ to respond to requests for casework assistance in a consistent manner and in accordance with EDO NQ's primary charter of contributing to the conservation and protection of the environment, including the cultural and built environment. The Casework Guidelines are administered by a Casework Committee appointed by EDO NQ's management committee.
All requests for significant legal assistance are considered by the Casework Committee who determine the amount of work to be undertaken (e.g. a written advice detailing the litigation options for a particular fact scenario). If a client requests further work (e.g. the drafting of grounds for a Planning and Environment Court appeal), the Casework Committee will then consider that additional request and decide whether the further work complies with the Casework Guidelines and should be undertaken. Applicants for significant legal assistance will be notified of the outcome by EDO NQ's staff.
There are four matters that the Casework Committee will consider in determining whether to grant a Legal Assistance Request, these are:
- Characteristics of the case - particularly environmental significance and public interest;
- Resource issues;
- Prospects of success; and
- Regional benefit.
Details of these four matters are provided below -
1. Characteristics of the case
The Casework Committee will particularly consider the environmental significance and public interest aspects of the Request for Legal Assistance.
Of primary consideration is the significance of the case to the environment, with public interest being the second most important factor that will be considered. In this regard, “environment” includes the built and cultural environments, as well as the natural environment.
In assessing environmental significance, the Casework Committee will have regard to the following:
- Does the case seek to promote the preservation or conservation or integrity of species and ecosystems or the maintenance of habitat and biodiversity?
- Does the case involve the application or defence of important conservation principles or important conservation agreements? An example might be a matter arguing for enforcement of the precautionary principle embodied in the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Environment or a matter involving the interpretation of obligations under the World Heritage Convention.
- Might the case establish a precedent which is likely to have wider significance for the environment beyond the immediate subject matter of the case? An example might be a development proposal involving interpretation of the Environmental Protection Act which will in turn influence a range of other proposals and the manner in which they impact upon the environment.
- The extent to which the case is likely to impact upon the way people perceive, use or enjoy the environment and whether it will result in a continuing benefit (or detriment) to the environment
- Does the case relate to the use of natural resources, the manner and extent of usage, and the corresponding degree of impact upon the environment? EDO NQ will only act in relation to environmental law matters which involve strong elements of public interest.
EDO NQ will not act in matters involving purely private interests such as a claim for compensation relating to chemical exposure or a rezoning objection based on an individual's loss of view.
Public interest may exist in matters ostensibly of a private nature where there is a direct connection with the protection and conservation of the environment (e.g. the clearing of vegetation on private property for infrastructure, such as the provision of electricity lines etc.)
The Casework Committee will have regard to the level of public concern as an indicator of public interest. For example, an issue which leads to the establishment of a residents’ action group or other special purpose association may indicate a widespread level of concern and strong public interest.
2. Resource Issues
It is not only important that EDO NQ uses its limited resources efficiently and effectively, but it is also important that if EDO NQ takes on a matter then EDO NQ has the time and other resources to be able to handle that matter both competently and professionally. When considering this guideline the Casework Committee will consider issues such as the following:
- Whether EDO NQ has sufficient resources (or access to resources) to enable it to handle the matter competently and professionally.
- Whether the applicant is eligible for legal aid. (Currently, grants of legal aid are very difficult to obtain in environmental matters. However, it may be possible in certain matters and EDO NQ can provide advice and assistance in relation to legal aid applications).
- Whether the applicant is able to pay for all necessary outlays associated with the case. (Due to its limited resources, EDO NQ is unable to pay for client outlays. These may include such expenses as Freedom of Information Act charges, barrister’s fees or expert witness report fees.)
- In the case of litigation related work, whether the applicant is able to reimburse EDO NQ, in part or in full, for the cost of the work (EDO NQ's Commonwealth funding prohibits its use for "litigation-related work".) See note at end of guidelines for details of EDO NQ's litigation work charging rates policy.
- Whether, and the extent to which, the applicant is able to assist with the preparation and conduct of the case.
- Whether, having regard to EDO NQ's resources and the resources available to the applicant, it is more appropriate that the matter be handled by a privately retained lawyer.
3. Prospects of Success
- Where litigation is involved, the Casework Committee will consider the following questions:
- What are the prospects of succeeding in the hearing?
- What other positive benefits will be caused by the litigation (whether or not it succeeds in Court)?
- What are the prospects of obtaining a positive costs order in favour of EDO NQ’s client? Where costs are awarded in favour of the party represented by EDO NQ, EDO NQ reserves the right to deliver an account in accordance with the relevant Court scale for all work it has performed which is covered by the costs order.
4. Regional Benefit
Matters which the Casework Committee will consider in relation to this issue include the following:
- Whether acceptance of the case will allow EDO NQ to provide balanced service provision across its jurisdiction.
- Whether the case is likely to influence, in a beneficial manner, policies, procedures or practices relating to the environment in Northern Queensland generally.
Charging rates for litigation services
Set fees apply to all litigation related activities undertaken by an EDO NQ Solicitor. The fee is higher in instances where the principal Solicitor attends to your matter.
Where fees are to be charged, a set fee of $288 and $148 (incl. GST) per hour applies to all litigation related activities undertaken by the EDO NQ Principal Solicitor in the Supreme and District Courts, respectively. This is the amount able to be claimed under the Scale of Costs for the Supreme and District Courts of Queensland by solicitors for basic attendances involving skill or legal knowledge (Schedules 1 and 2, Item 16: Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999)
Senior Solicitor attendance fees are 80% of those of the Principal Solicitor, while Solicitor attendance fees are 60% of those of the Principal Solicitor.
The Committee may, within their discretion, amend the set fee to provide a % discount depending on the client's ability to pay as well as other factors, for example, the regional, national, or international significance of the case. Note: These Casework Guidelines have been approved by the Management Committee of EDO NQ and will be reviewed from time to time as the need arises.
Please feel free to contact us if you have a public interest environmental issue or wish to find out more about environmental and planning laws.
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If you would like to support the EDO NQ, and in particular our test cases, we encourage you to (a) make a tax deductible donat (please consider a regular donation), (b) become a member, (c) make arrangements for a bequest, and/or (d) volunteer.