Australian Developers Forced to Restore Wetlands

March 31, 1998

An Australian developer was destroying protected habitat. The developer had illegally clearcut 30 hectares of critical habitat for koalas and other threatened species; cleared a wildlife corridor; started draining adjacent wetlands and a coastal rainforest; and built three kilometers of roads — all in violation of the original development approval. Representing a local citizen, ELAW Australia attorney Lisa Ogle and the NSW Environmental Defender`s Office (EDO) obtained a court order to cease the illegal development.

With this victory in hand, the EDO went to work to restore the area. The EDO asked the Court to order the developer to remediate and revegetate the site. The developer argued that the illegal work would not cause significant environmental harm and claimed that it could not afford to remediate the site. The EDO showed that the illegal works were causing significant, continuing environmental damage, and that the developer had acted in blatant disregard of the law by violating its development approval. EDO solicitor Lisa Ogle appealed to the ELAW network for cases from other countries where courts had ordered a developer to remove illegal works and remediate a site. ELAW U.S. sent Lisa U.S. cases, which she used to bolster her case.

With this support, the EDO won a stunning victory for the environment: the Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court ordered the developer to rip up all the roads, fill in all the drains, undo all the earthworks, return the site to its original topography, and replant the entire site within nine months! Through the ELAW network, this victory can help advocates around the world restore environmental damage. Lisa has sent a copy of the decision — Oshlack v. Iron Gates Pty. Ltd. — to the Philippines, where ELAW advocates are asking a court to order a developer to restore wetlands that it filled illegally.

For more information about this ELAW Impact, please contact: Environmental Defender`s Office, 89 York Street, Level 9, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.