David Risstrom - Greens Melbourne City Councillor 1999-2004
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LEGAL STANDING AS FRIEND OF THE ENVIRONMENT WHERE LIKELY MATERIAL DETRIMENT EXISTS
 
 

ACHIEVEMENT: Where on application a court or tribunal determines that a proposed activity or development is determined as likely to have a material detriment to the environment, that the Court or Tribunal be empowered to declare that a friend of the court be appointed to independently represent the interests of the environment.

TARGET DATE: September 2006 PROGRESS: None to date.

DESCRIPTION: The question of who represents the environment in legal proceedings has been long standing and long unanswered.

In Family and Children's Court proceedings there has been a long standing legislative capacity for the Court to act in the best interests of the child where their interests are not independently and adequately represented. In criminal cases, the High Court has confirmed the right of defendants to be adequately represented in Dietrich's case, where access to legal aid was nominated as a right.

Some may argue that environment rights can only be represented by people whose environmental rights are being affected. More developed understanding of the environment in modern times makes that argument less solid. The case of air pollution such as carbon dioxide designed to plume into the upper atmosphere is one that may clearly cause detriment to the environment, but may be difficult for adjoining land owners to demonstrate their standing in Court.

My proposal is that where, on application, a court or tribunal determines that a proposed activity or development is determined as likely to have a material detriment to the environment, that the Court or Tribunal be empowered to declare that a friend of the court be appointed to independently represent the interests of the environment This would require the court or tribunal to be satisfied that the environment wa adequately represented, but not that the court or tribunal financed that representation. The role of representative may be filled by an experienced community representative, a private lawyer or legal aid lawyer.

Costs could therefore be borne by pro bono effort, private or State financing. One of the most effective means of self funding would be to empower magistrates and tribunal members to order financial settlements or penalty provisions in environmental cases that contributed to funding better representation for the environment.

Ultimately, the result will be a consideration by an independent court or tribunal as to whether the interests of the environment are being adequately being represented with material detrimental is threatened. Ultimately, if our environment is not considered, it may fail to support us.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

 

Cool Green Tip Of The Week -

23 April 2017: Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918 -1956.

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