December 11, 2023

Queensland’s peak conservation group says it will launch a new “enforcement arm”, amid frustration at stalled government promises to establish an independent environmental regulator.

Every Australian state or territory – except Queensland – has an independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The state Labor government promised at the 2020 election it would “investigate and consult on” establishing an EPA. That process started almost two years ago, and environment groups have grown frustrated at the apparent lack of political will to proceed.

The Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) says it is now “stepping up to fill the gap”.

“The QCC is not sitting idly by in the face of the ongoing failure of our state’s environmental laws to protect the environment we depend on,” the group’s chair, Emily Kain, said.

“We are deeply concerned about the rampant disregard for the critical regulations that are meant to safeguard our environment.”

The Department of Environment and Science currently performs the role of regulator, in addition to being an approvals agency for environmental authorities.

The lack of an independent EPA has allowed a situation to develop where breaches of environment law, and fines handed out by the department, had come to be seen as “the cost of doing business”, the QCC’s Jenny Brown said

In response, the conservation council has formed a new entity – Queensland Conservation Council Ltd – whose mission will be to act as a quasi-regulator.

QCC Ltd will undertake “proactive actions aimed at enforcing Queensland laws”, including taking on potential court cases, and will operate separately from the existing umbrella organisation for the state’s environment groups. It plans to launch its first legal action in coming months.

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“As individuals, we make sure we abide by the law. And we’ve seen over and over again that communities have to step in and make sure that corporations also abide by the law,” Brown said.

The new entity, QCC Ltd, will be mostly funded by donations.

Kain said the organisation would “[fortify] our legacy by holding accountable those who violate environmental laws”.

The state environment minister, Leanne Linard, has been contacted for comment.

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