Redlands Koala Action Group hits out at threatened loss of funding for Environmental Defenders Office

CONSERVATIONISTS have labelled as undemocratic a state opposition promise to defund the Environmental Defenders Office if it wins the election.

CONCERNS RAISED: The Koala Action Group is concerned about an LNP pledge to defund the Environmental Defenders Office.

CONCERNS RAISED: The Koala Action Group is concerned about an LNP pledge to defund the Environmental Defenders Office.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington told the Rural Press Club this week the party would defund the EDO, saying "it's very important that we do not have a state government working against itself."

Ms Frecklington said an LNP government also would fix Labor's anti-farming laws, particularly on vegetation clearing and Great Barrier Reef protection.

The issue has raised fears within the conservation movement that it heralds a return to the Campbell Newman LNP years when conservation issues were attacked, including weakening vegetation clearing laws and allowing grazing in some national parks.

The EDO provides free legal advice on a range of issues, especially development and mining. This irritates many development and mining groups who believe taxpayer funds should not be used in this way.

Koala Action Group spokeswoman Debbie Pointing said her organisation was an EDO member and strongly opposed any move to withdraw funding.

"Our understanding is that they had already had substantial cuts to their funding by the previous LNP government and we see this as an attack on democracy," Ms Pointing said.

She said the EDO helped ordinary people understand what they were dealing with when it came to objecting to development proposals or seeking advice on cases where a developer or corporate entities were threatening a property owner with legal action.

Many of these people could not afford their own legal advice.

"The occasions that KAG has used the EDO advisory service has been most valuable as it allows limited access to an environmental lawyer to discuss options for not for profit groups like ours to help weave our way through the legal process of environmental laws that are very complex.

"It is completely wrong and undemocratic to make changes that further disempowers community groups and individuals who are already the underdogs against cashed up entities with legal advice at their fingertips."

Community Legal Centres director Rosslyn Monro urged the LNP to reverse its decision as it would have a devastating impact on regional communities that relied on the service.

"Access to justice is not just for the wealthy," she said.

"Adequate funding of community legal centres ensures that anyone can seek legal advice, support and education.

"...We are calling on Deb Frecklington and (Opposition justice spokesman) David Janetzki to rethink this decision. Regional Queenslanders will have no choice but to pay for private representation or be forced to self-represent in our state's courts."