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Court rules on EIA regulations

Losalini Bolatagici
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

MEMBERS of the public are entitled to have access and obtain copies of environmental impact assessment (EIA) regulations without restrictions.

This was again clarified by an order handed down in the High Court in Suva this month whereby Ranadi Plantation Partnership and representatives from Waikalou Subdivision in Deuba won a case against the Department of Environment, director of environment and the Attorney-General for their refusal to produce a copy of EIA for a planned development in Pacific Harbour.

The plaintiffs were represented by Munro Leys solicitors.

The order stated the Department of Environment was required, pursuant to section 17 of the Environment Management Act (EMA), to keep an environmental register in which all prescribed matters under the EMA including those documents listed by regulations 41 (1) and 41 (2) of the Environment (EIA process) Regulations 2007 were recorded and to which the public was entitled to have access and obtain copies without restrictions.

A representative from Ranadi Plantation yesterday said they were delighted about the outcome of the case as they wanted the public of Fiji to know that if anyone was in the same situation, they had the right to this information.

The representative said they were not opposed to the development but they wanted to know what was happening on their boarders, adding they lived in flood prone areas so any development taking place in the area should be known particularly if there were provisions for drainage and other sort of services.

The representative further said the community committee had called and emailed the Department of Environment but was told that no copies would be released.

The department refused to release a copy to a lawyer who visited them and even when the lawyers called to explain to the department that those were public documents according to the Act.

The representative said that was the reason they took the matter to court.

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