Why every West Australian must protest the Roe 8 Toll Road

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For many people who have been introduced to the Roe 8 toll road and the Beeliar Wetlands via their recent nightly news, they might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

But hidden under the surface of the newspaper reports and two minute news bulletins is a story that would shock most Western Australians.

The truth is that there is much more at stake than many people realise. This is an issue that could threaten the future of all West Australians and all of us should be taking action.

Yes, the area around the Beeliar Wetlands is one of the last remaining remnants of an ancient and endangered ecology that exists nowhere else on Earth. Yes, the area is incredibly sacred to Aboriginal people and contains Indigenous Heritage that pre-dates the Pyramids. Yes, it is well loved by local people seeking to enjoy nature - and get fit.

Yes, there are far better alternatives for freight and passenger transport that will yield more permanent jobs and reduce costs to motorists and taxpayers. Yes, the 24-hour exposure to toxic diesel emissions from the toll road will permanently affect the health of children and communities in its path, especially when the trucks get stuck in lengthening  queues once they leave the highway.

And yes, the lack of a credible business case and the $1.7 billion dollar price tag for taxpayers at a time of spiraling debt and deficit is economically reckless in the extreme.

For thousands of people, these reasons alone are enough to motivate an act of protest as we have seen over recent weeks with a diverse range of community groups joining six councils to vehemently oppose the project.

But this battle is actually far bigger than that.

Wherever you live – if you drink water and breathe air, if you eat food and if you enjoy the natural environment, then your future is threatened by this project.

That’s because if it is allowed to go ahead unchallenged, it will open the door to far greater damage to our environment, health, and communities across the State.

To understand why, we need to go back to the court cases where a community group challenged the environmental approvals granted by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob.
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I stood in the court with Kate Kelly from Save Beeliar Wetlands to hear the ruling so many were dreading.

During the hearing it was confirmed again that due process was not followed by the State Government. In order to grant the project approval, the EPA and Minister had to ignore important environmental policies and procedures.

Incredibly, the State Government lawyers never contested this point.

Despite this, the Court found in favor of the government on a technicality, ruling that our environmental laws do not actually compel the EPA and Minister to comply with their own policies. The most recent attempt to block clearing in the courts met with a similar result. While the full case is yet to be heard, the view taken by the Judge was that no independent or evidence-based test is required to demonstrate that the environmental conditions set by the Federal Environment Minister are actually complied with by the State.

Think about this for a moment. Policies and conditions provide safeguards that are there for a reason. To protect our health, to prevent wildlife extinction, and to generally maintain a healthy environment and the clean air and water that we all depend on.  And in most of these areas the buck stops with the State Government – there is no other line of defense. No backup plan. No other responsible party to step in.

Our inadequate laws may have rendered the courts powerless, but as citizens and members of a community we all have a right and responsibility to act where we see wrong, especially when it threatens our wellbeing.

The alternative is unthinkable.

If we stand by as a community and allow the Roe 8 toll road to go ahead unchallenged then we create a very dangerous precedent. To do so would be to give the State Government a license to disregard every environmental policy ever written, for whatever purpose the Government chooses.

court_Piers.JPGThe significance of making a stand on this does not end there. It also goes to the motivation behind the Government's decision to begin destroying this most ancient threatened ecology just before an election. For the timing and nature of this decision reveals that it is not - as the Government would like us to think - about a critical piece of transport infrastructure.

Hard as it is to fathom, we must understand that the targeting of the beautiful Coolbellup bushland, with its bandicoots, cockatoos, and other endangered species, is a highly deliberate act of malicious environmental damage, calculated to serve the political objective of a government desperate to hold on to power.

The Government wanted to demonstrate before the election that they are 'getting on with the job' of building the toll road - making tough decisions and getting things done.

 

The Liberal party know this will come at the cost of local votes in the progressive-leaning seats of Fremantle and Willagee. The political bargain they are hoping to strike is that commencing works will win support in other key seats they desperately need to retain government.

They hoped to draw out the community and provoke confrontation with their provocative actions and extraordinary police mobilisation, knowing that it would appear on TV news night after night as a reminder of the Barnett Government’s ‘can-do attitude’, and a very welcome distraction from the other issues plaguing the Government. Mulcher.JPG

This may yet turn out to be a fundamental miscalculation because it relies on a degree of ignorance in the electorate that will be difficult to sustain.

No matter what your political persuasion, seeing a government engage in deliberate and unnecessary acts of environmental damage, willfully ignoring its own policies, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens our future - simply for the sake of its own short-term political agenda, is not something that will inspire confidence in voters.

 

Minister for the Environment must protect endangered wildlife from land clearing

Now that new biodiversity conservation laws have been passed by the WA Parliament, it is time for the Minister for the Environment to take urgent action to protect endangered wildlife from land clearing and other habitat destruction.

Open letter to CCWA Members and Supporters about the Environmental Defenders Office Western Australia

Dear CCWA Members and Supporters

The Environmental Defender’s Office WA (EDO) needs our help

For over 20 years, the EDO has been an independent legal voice for the environment and assisted numerous CCWA member groups and associated campaigns in critical work to protect the environment.

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WA State Budget 2016-17

Budget1617.JPGWhat does the 2016/17 WA budget mean for our environment?

Budgets are very revealing documents as they show exactly where government expenditure is being allocated. Decisions to spend or cut funding flow from the Government's policy priorities and provide an insight into the decisions that are being made across all portfolios.

 

What has been funded?

The following examples show areas of funding in the State Budget which will have a positive or negative impact on the environment

 

New Kimberley Parks receive funding for management

The new terrestrial and marine protected areas that the State Government is delivering in the Kimberley have received budget allocations for establishment and management under the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy. These funds will be used to support Joint Management of the parks with Traditional Owners in the Kimberley, including WA's first jointly managed Marine Parks. The Management Plans for the new Kimberley Marine Parks have not yet been finalised and conservation groups are urging stronger protection, increased sanctuary zones and the banning of gillnet fishing in the parks, but it is a positive sign that funding commitments have been made for the management of these large new protected areas.

 

Funding for WA Biodiversity Science Institute

$6.7m over five years has been provided for the new WA Biodiversity Science Institute. This is a joint initiative between several universities and government agencies aimed at improving the planning and coordination of biodiversity science and research in Western Australia. CCWA worked with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy to develop the proposal for this initiative several years ago and it is pleasing to see it come to fruition, however it will be important that the research agenda for the Institute does not become dominated by industry. With no community representation on the Board of the new Institute there is a real risk that this may occur.

 

Royalties for Regions to subsidise mining and fracking on farmland

$10M per year will be made available to subsidise mining and petroleum industries (including gas fracking and uranium mining) to expand. This funding will be provided from the WA Nationals Royalties for Regions Program. While Some National’s MP’s call for veto rights for farmers who do not want fracking in their land, $30 million from Royalties for Regions - the National’s signature funding program - will be made available to subsidise the very industries that farmers wish to veto.

 

Unnecessary Freight Link to receive nearly $1.8bn image003.jpg

Funding of over $450m is provided in the budget over three years for construction of the Roe8 highway extension through the Beeliar Wetlands as the first stage of the overall Perth Freight Link project. According to the budget the estimated total cost of this project to WA taxpayers will be nearly $1.8 billion. This is a massive waste of taxpayers funds on an extremely controversial and environmentally destructive project. The approval has been overturned in the WA Supreme Court, A Senate Inquiry has advised against the project and a strong coalition of local community, councils and environment groups remain strongly opposed to this development.

 

 

What has not been funded?

The following examples identify areas of funding that have either been reduced or not provided at all, which we consider important for the environment.

 

New Biodiversity laws not matched by funding commitment 

While the State Numbat.jpgGovernment says the new Biodiversity Conservation Bill will introduce a new regime of better protection for the environment, no funds have been allocated in the budget to support increased protection of wildlife once the new laws come into effect. Conservation groups have identified a number of serious flaws with the Governments proposed Biodiversity Conservation Bill and the lack of funding for its implementation is another serious concern to add to that list. To be effective, any new biodiversity protection laws will require a major increase in resources committed to biodiversity science, planning and protection, however no new funding commitments have been made in the State budget.

 

Climate change funding absent from budget

There is no dedicated funding identified in the State Budget for climate change adaptation or mitigation. This is alarming given that WA (including our economy, communities, environment and agricultural sector) is highly vulnerable to the impacts of a drying and changing climate. Under the Barnett Government, carbon pollution from fossil fuel industries such as LNG processing have been allowed to increase unchecked and the budget papers confirm there is no commitment from the Government to deal with, or even acknowledge the impacts of a rapidly changing climate.

 

Collie_coal.JPGNo funding for Collie coal transition

State Treasurer and Energy Minister Mike Nahan has acknowledged the need to shut down excess electricity generating capacity in WA, starting with coal fired power stations. Thousands of households are installing to solar panels to reduce their energy bills and this is in turn reducing our reliance on old, polluting coal fired power stations. A just and orderly transition of the electricity grid does however require funding assistance, most urgently in the form of a transition plan for the town of Collie. Unfortunately this is not funded in the State Budget despite the establishment of a Collie Transition Taskforce to advise government on important initiatives to support the transition.

 

Environmental policy functions take a cut

The important environmental policy functions in the Department of Environmental Regulation will suffer a 30% reduction in funding (from $10M to $7M) in this budget. These policy functions are critical to the task of keeping our air and water clean, maintaining our health, and preventing pollution of our natural environment. With new polluting industries such as gas fracking being promoted across that state, our environmental regulators should have increased funding to do their job, not less.

Federal Senate denounces WA anti-protest laws

Groups have welcomed the motion by the Australian Federal Senate which calls on the Barnett Government to abandon its proposed anti-protest bill.

Community Conservation Awards 2015

The Conservation Council of WA is celebrating 21 years of its prestigious Community Conservation Awards.

The annual awards recognise outstanding achievement by individuals and community groups in the conservation and protection of the natural environment, and the promotion of a more sustainable Western Australia.

At the Awards Night on 11 December 2015 at the WA Ecology Centre, the following winners were announced:

Director's report delivered to CCWA Annual General Meeting, October 2015

After another action-packed and exciting year at CCWA it is good to take a moment to reflect how the WA community conservation sector and its peak body is travelling, and what has been achieved during the past year.

WA Nats leave gate wide open to gas fracking

At their recent State Conference the WA Nationals Party considered two important issues for regional WA – renewable energy and gas fracking.

Spring Eco Fest 2015

Spring Eco Fest is a free community event that brings a celebration of our WA environment and sustainable community living to the heart of the city. The event is organised annually by the Conservation Council of WA.

Fremantle plastic bag block sets worrying precedent

Parliament must not block local community action to protect the environment