Science

We believe that science plays an important role in the implementation of environmental law and the development of good environmental policy.

In recognition of this, in 2003 we established a scientific advisory service, with the role of providing objective scientific and technical advice to EDO NSW and our clients on public interest environmental matters. To see how the Service can work, read How science helps us defend the environment through law, EDO NSW blog, 15 August 2016.

About the Scientific Advisory Service

A key aim of the scientific advisory service is to increase the public's capacity to participate effectively in the environmental planning and development assessment process.

The scientific advisory service comprises:

  1. In-house environmental science advice.
  2. A Technical Advisory Panel (TAP), which comprises academic experts who provide strategic advice to EDO NSW on scientific issues on a pro-bono basis. The TAP currently comprises:
    • Prof Chris Dickman, Professor of Terrestrial Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney – terrestrial ecology
    • Assoc Prof Nicole Gurran, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney – urban planning and policy analysis
    • Prof Richard Kingsford, Professor of Environmental Science, University of NSW  wetland and river ecology and water resources.
    • Dr Iain MacGill, Senior Lecturer, University of NSW  energy policy and technology.
    • Prof John Quiggin, Risk and Sustainable Management Group, University of Queensland  economics and economic policy
  3. An Expert Register, which comprises over 150 scientific and technical experts in a range of fields who assist EDO NSW from time to time on a pro-bono (volunteer) basis.

The work of the Scientific Advisory Service

The work of the scientific advisory service can be categorized as follows:

  • Pre-decision work - advice on proposed developments or actions prior to an approval decision being made. This mainly involves advice on the impacts of developments and the adequacy of environmental impact assessments and assisting clients prepare submissions to decision-makers.
  • Compliance and monitoring work - advice on approved developments or actions. This mainly involves advice on the compliance of developments and actions with conditions of approval or regulatory requirements, and assisting clients prepare submissions to regulatory authorities.
  • Policy and law reform work - contributions to our policy and law reform work by undertaking research and providing advice on the scientific aspects of government policy proposals and our priority law reform areas.
  • Community legal education work - contributions to our community legal education work by presenting at seminars and workshops, contributing to plain-English guides, and preparing fact sheets on scientific issues.

When do I need scientific advice?

Scientific and technical information plays a significant part in the implementation of environmental law. For example, environmental planning relies on scientific information to determine where to best place development and where to best protect land, while environmental impact assessment relies on consultants and other technical specialists to predict and minimize the impacts of developments.

Examples of when scientific advice could assist you include:

  • Investigating the impacts of a proposed development on the environment and preparing a submission to government on the adequacy of an environmental impact assessment.
  • Investigating compliance with conditions of approval for a development or with environmental legislation for an activity such as forestry operations or land clearing on private land.
  • Gathering information to support your views in relation to a development or to influence a change in environmental policy or law.
  • Considering Court proceedings for environmental cases.
  • Using the scientific advisory service

If you require scientific advice, you should first contact the duty solicitor on the environmental law advice line. The duty solicitor will then liaise with the in-house environmental scientists to see if we can assist you.

It is very important to come to us as early as possible with your matter. We need time to get up to speed with a matter and it may take some time to work through key issues. If you do not provide us with adequate time, we may not be able to assist you.

You should note that extensive scientific assistance, including obtaining advice from the Expert Register, will only be available for matters that meet our advice or casework guidelines, among other considerations. The matter must be a public interest environmental issue involving a real threat to the environment.

You should also note that the expertise you require may not always be covered by the Expert Register, and that members of the register provide their time free of charge and may not always be available to assist. For this reason, we cannot guarantee pro-bono advice even if your matter meets our guidelines.

For more information on the scientific advisory service, please contact Megan Kessler, Scientific Director, on (61 2) 9262 6989 or at edonsw@edonsw.org.au.