Regional Queenslanders and farmers could be forced to represent themselves on environmental and planning matters if the Liberal National Party defunds the Environmental Defenders Office, the organisation warns.
The EDO in Queensland receives state government funding to provide free legal advice, education and engages in environmental and planning policy and law reform.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington pledged in response to a question at the Rural Press Club on Monday to defund the organisation if her party wins the state election in October.
“It is very important that we do not have the state government working against itself,” she said.
EDO is seeking an urgent meeting with Ms Frecklington and shadow attorney-general David Janetzki to discuss the LNP’s plan.
EDO Brisbane managing lawyer Revel Pointon warned defunding the service will impact farmers and regional Queenslanders.
The EDO has provided free or low-cost legal advice on local developments, coal seam gas projects, renewable energy and mining initiatives which impacted water and prime agricultural land.
“Many of our clients are farmers and regional Queenslanders who need legal advice around issues relating to their communities, their livelihoods, their land and their groundwater,” Ms Pointon said.
It’s not clear who would provide legal advice to farmers and people in regional areas if the EDO’s funding is cut in the wake of an LNP win, which could be a close call.
Ms Pointon suggested people would either have to pay for private legal representation or represent themselves, which could cause lengthy delays and hold up projects in court.
Community legal centres like EDO were the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure professional legal services were available to everyone, and that courts ran smoothly.
“We invite the leader of the opposition to meet with us to discuss how community legal centres operate and how regional Queenslanders would receive adequate access to legal advice on environment and planning matters under her proposal,” she added.
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