PEACEFUL PROTEST: A CSG protest outside the Metgasco office in Johnston St, Casino.
PEACEFUL PROTEST: A CSG protest outside the Metgasco office in Johnston St, Casino. Cathy Adams

Environment group faces cash slash

NEW funding guidelines released this week could spell the end of EDO New South Wales.

Attorney-General Greg Smith said the changes were partly aimed at stopping Legal Aid organisations from representing lobby groups.

"There's lobbying occurring, advice is being given to radical groups who want to basically stop coal mine exploration, coal seam gas exploration, that's money that... these organisations are receiving (that) should be going to the homeless - they're the people we want to help," he said on Thursday.

Under the guidelines, funding may not be used for lobbying activities, public campaigning or providing legal advice to activists and lobby groups.

Jeff Smith, the executive director of EDO NSW, formerly known as the Environmental Defenders' Office, said most of the organisation's work was with small groups.

"If these groups were defined as lobby groups, we would not be able to represent them. It certainly does seem to go to the heart of the work we do," he said.

EDO has been funded by the Public Purpose Fund for 15 years and will be until March 31. On December 13, the PPF met to consider the EDO's case and asked it to provide information about how it meets the PPF funding criteria. EDO NSW's Mr Smith did not know the outcome of the meeting. He said it had always met the guidelines.

PPF funding is 70% of the EDO's budget, with 8% from elsewhere in the State Government and the rest from Federal Government and other sources. Its funding has been slashed by a quarter.

Questions about the EDO's relationship with groups such as Lock the Gate had been raised, with Energy Minister Chris Hartcher accusing the group of being allied with radical socialists.

"This isn't just about coal, this is about a leftist agenda to destroy the economy," Mr Hartcher was reported as saying.

Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre is also PPF funded and its manager Angela Pollard said the centre was concerned about how it could provide legal advice to people caught up in CSG activities.

The Government has said the new guidelines would improve access to community legal services for socially and economically disadvantaged and vulnerable people in NSW.

"In tight financial times we have to make sure the money goes where it is most needed - to give legal advice and representation to people who cannot otherwise afford it and for cases which are in the public interest and have a good chance of success," Attorney-General Smith said.



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