We have some good news and some bad news for the thousands of community groups and individuals who rallied to support EDO NSW during our funding crisis of late last year.
Your voices and, from many of you, your donations have been invaluable to demonstrating the extraordinary community support for EDO that exists across NSW.
As you’ll recall, in 2012 we faced unprecedented attacks in public, in the parliament and also behind the scenes from the mining industry, the Shooters and Fishers Party and The Australian newspaper, with pressure for EDO NSW to be ‘defanged’, and calls for us to be defunded by the NSW Government.
The good news first
EDO NSW has been granted $1.2 million in funding for the financial year 2013-14. EDO NSW is delighted that the Public Purpose Fund of the Law Society of NSW (PPF), our main source of income, has continued to support our public interest environmental law service for the people of NSW, from the cities to the regions and remote rural areas. At one stage it appeared that our entire funding was under serious threat, such was the intensity of the attacks on the EDO, but for now at least the worst has been averted. The new PPF allocation means that for the next year we can maintain most if not all of our operations, including our regional office in Lismore in far northern NSW. The PPF decision provides us with a full year of funding certainty. This is less than the three-yearly funding agreements that applied until last year, but much better than the three-months-at-a-time funding allocations that have applied in recent months. You can now approach 2013 and the first half of 2014 with significantly restored confidence that EDO NSW will be able to assist you, after a very demoralising period in 2012 for the office.
The bad news
Support from the PPF has been reduced by about 27% in 2013 by comparison to the 2012 calendar year. You’ll recall that this very significant reduction was already in place for the first six months of the 2013 year, January to June. It means that our core PPF funding has been reduced from $1.64 million a year (or about $410,000 a quarter) to $1.2 million a year (or $300,000 a quarter) so we’re still facing a substantial shortfall compared to previous years. The PPF noted that the current reduction is based on a decline in its own earnings and reserves, due mainly to prevailing lower official interest rates in Australia affecting its income from monies held in solicitors trust accounts.
Once again, the EDO team wants to thank all of our clients past and present, and our many supporters in the community and the legal profession, who have stood by us so strongly to save EDO NSW. We know there are many challenges ahead and we need you to maintain your support so that the EDO can keep on defending the environment and heritage under the law. This is especially important with the major planning law reform process now under way in NSW.
*Jeff Smith is the Executive Director of EDO NSW