Licences, Wildlife, Liability, Evidence, Civil, Damages, Environmental Defenders, Standing, Access to Justice, Forests
The Plaintiff argued that the Respondent had polluted a waterway and, as a consequence, had caused considerable damage to the surrounding habitat and wildlife. The Plaintiff commenced civil enforcement proceedings seeking declarations and orders in relation to possible breaches of s 120 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and made application for protective costs order limiting costs recoverable by either party. The case had special factors to identify it as one of public interest. Furthermore, the Plaintiff had no private interest and would be likely to drop the action if its liabilities were not capped at $20,000. The Court was also impressed that counsel for the Applicant was acting pro bono and conversely, if an order was made, the Respondent would not suffer financial hardship. They held that the case was not vexatious or frivolous. The Court capped recoverable costs for both parties, after having analysed the purpose of protective costs order in public interest cases, the factors to consider in making protective costs order and whether there was public interest in litigation.