There are many opportunities to participate in environmental decision-making and have your say.
The opportunities available to you will depend on whether the decision is yet to be made (in which case you can focus on influencing the decision) or whether the decision has been made (in which case your efforts should focus on either challenging the decision, or ensuring that the law is complied with).
Government decisions are required to be made in accordance with certain processes under the law. If you need help in understanding these processes, or are unsure about whether or not these processes were followed by a decision-maker, there may be something you can do.
Making the Most of Opportunities to Have Your Say
Whether you are seeking to influence a decision, or challenging a decision in Court, there are some important things you should consider.
1. Do you need to incorporate?
Incorporation is the way a group can have a legal identity separate from its individual members. Incorporation benefits individual members of the association by protecting them from legal liability for the actions of the incorporated association.
This Fact Sheet examines the purpose of incorporation, and gives an overview of the process of incorporating your environmental or community group.
This Fact Sheet will be useful for people who are part of an environment or community group, particularly if you are considering taking legal action.
2. How will you avoid defamation?
It is important to be aware that some things that are said and written – even unintentionally – can result in you being sued for defamation. Defamation laws attempt to balance freedom of speech with the need to protect the reputation or privacy of individuals.
3. Will you be engaging the media?
The media can be a useful tool for informing the public about your issue and gathering support. This can include newspapers, radio, television, and the internet.
4. Will you be engaging with a corporation?
When it comes to controlling corporate behaviour, specific corporation laws may offer more opportunities for better environmental outcomes than traditional environmental laws. This is because they directly regulate corporate behaviour.
Tips From Our Experts
We have asked a variety of decision-makers from all levels of government to give us inside tips on what makes for effective engagement. We have also asked members of the community to tell us what has worked for them in the past.
How Does the System Work?
In order to engage effectively in environmental decision-making, it is important to understand how the system works.
This section provides an introduction to environmental law and the the law making process, as well as an overview of decision-makers.
What is environmental law?
An explanation of the sources and functions of our many environmental laws, and some key principles of environmental law.
Environmental law seeks to manage human impacts on the environment
In NSW there are over 40 laws that relate to the environment. While laws are designed to ensure the protection of the environment, others are designed to control human use of natural resources by setting up a system of environmental approvals.
This page lists some key functions of environmental law.
The two sources of law in Australia are legislation (law made by Parliament) and common law (judge-made law, or case law).
Ecologically sustainable development (ESD) is an important concept in environmental law.
For assistance with legal research, consider contacting the Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC). LIAC is a specialist information service run by the State Library of NSW and is free for NSW residents.
LIAC provides legal research assistance through specialist librarians based at the State Library.
For more information about LIAC, see How do I Gather Information? below.
It is useful to understand how laws are made and be aware of opportunities to participate in legislative processes, such as reviews.
Responsibility for environmental decision-making is spread across three levels of government – Federal, State and local. This section outlines the various responsibilities of each level.
Decision-making can also occur across the three arms of government – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. This section outlines the functions of each arm of government in the creation and implementation of environmental laws and policies.
Decision-makers sometimes make mistakes. There are a number of options available to the public to help ensure due process is observed and decision-makers are held accountable for their actions.
How to gather information
An important part of having your say is being informed about the issues and the process you are engaging in. This section is dedicated to helping you access the information required for effective participation. Topics covered in this section include:
- Evidence gathering
- Legal resources and research
- Information from Parliament
- Information from Government
Access to information
This Fact Sheet gives an overview of the state and national access to information systems. It discusses the importance of public access to information in promoting open, accountable government, details the processes that must be followed by people wishing to access government information, and introduces the bodies responsible for assisting the community to access this information.
This Fact Sheet will be useful for people who want to gain access to information held by the government at a local, State, and national level.
Speaking out in public
This Fact Sheet discusses the legal consequences that may arise from speaking out in public. It discusses defamation law and injurious falsehood in relation to environmental campaigning, and gives an overview of what these things are and how you can avoid them.
This Fact Sheet will be useful for people who want to speak out in public to protect the environment, but want to avoid defaming someone unlawfully in the process.
Submissions letters and petitions
This Fact Sheet discusses the importance of engaging in environmental law and policy decision-making processes by writing submissions, letters and petitions. It offers tips on how to find out about chances to have your say, how to write effectively, and how to ensure that your contribution meets legal requirements to ensure it is eligible to be considered by decision-makers.
This Fact Sheet will be useful for people who would like to have their say about decisions made by government, including development applications and changes to policies, as well as people who are looking for ideas on how to approach a decision-maker with a new idea.
ICAC the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General
This Fact Sheet examines how the public sector is held accountable for its actions. It discusses the mechanisms for dealing with corruption at local, state, and national government levels.
This Fact Sheet will be useful for people who are concerned that a public authority is engaging in unlawful or corrupt conduct.