Tugun Cobaki Alliance Inc v Minister for Planning and Roads and Traffic Authority
EDO NSW commenced proceedings in the Land and Environment Court on behalf of a community group, the Tugun Cobaki Alliance Inc. The proceedings challenged the decision by the Minister for Planning to approve the construction of the Tugun Bypass between Currumbin and Tweed Heads as a major project under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act).
In this case, the Tugun Cobaki Alliance argued that the approval was invalid on a number of grounds, including a failure by the Minister to properly consider certain environmental impact statement (EIS) and species impact statement (SIS) documents, as required under Part 3A.
This case was one of the first challenges to an approval made under Part 3A of the EP&A Act. The appeal dealt with a number of issues relating to the interpretation of Part 3A and the transitional regulations relating to major activities. However, one of the most important issues in the case related to the question of what material the Minister was required to consider before approving the project.
In a judgment delivered on 14 July 2006, Jagot J dismissed the appeal.
Jagot J found that, whilst the Minister was to be 'given' copies of the EIS and SIS, there was no obligation upon him to read those documents personally (which in this instance he did not do). Jagot J referred to the intent of Part 3A being to ensure that infrastructure projects of significance to the State and major projects could be delivered quickly and efficiently.
This judgment reinforces concerns about the wide discretion given to the Minister by Part 3A.
EDO NSW acknowledges and thanks Mr T Robertson SC and Ms L Byrne of Counsel for their appearance and contribution to the case.