Environmental Defender's Offices hit as funding slashed

ENVIRONMENTAL Defender's Offices across Australia are reeling from the news that $10 million of funding will be cut from the service by the Federal Government over the next four years.

EDO NSW provides free legal advice to landowners and community groups from offices in Sydney and Lismore.

NSW executive director Jeff Smith said the cuts to operations would be about 20% of their state budget and they were "currently working through the implications".

"I think part of the problem, if you can call it that, is that we are a highly effective organisation," he said.

"We are there for the community, they use us and we are highly valued."

Mr Smith was informed of the funding cuts on Tuesday night, and given no other explanation other than a line that said "in times of fiscal constraint, priority will be given to frontline legal service for the disadvantaged".

The funding cuts will mean that most EDOs will receive no Federal Government funding from July 1 next year.

It is not the first time this year the EDO has been in the funding firing line, with the NSW Government threatening to cut the money it receives from the NSW Law Society's Public Purpose Fund. However, after a backlash from the legal profession and community groups, the funding was re-instated, but at a reduced rate.

Asked whether he thought the cuts were politically or ideologically motivated, Mr Smith said he was aware that the Minerals Council had been lobbying the Federal Attorney-General, George Brandis, to cut EDO funding.

The Lismore office currently has about three full- time equivalent positions, but Mr Smith said it was too early to say what the future might hold for those jobs.

"We will have to look at service provision unless we can find a benefactor to support the work we do."



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