Land Use, Environmental Impact Assessments, Public Participation
The appellant was a residents group which had objected to the respondent council granting to itself development consent for a green organics bioremediation facility. The site was close to residential development and a public school. The council was the landowner, proponent and consent authority for the proposal. The parties agreed that the principal issue was odour emanation from the site and its potential to cause nuisance and annoyance to the nearby school as well as the adjacent residential areas. The court was of the view that only consistent high management practices could ensure that aerobic conditions would be maintained on the site. It was necessary to have in place an environmental management system in order to be able to maintain a high standard of management. This was lacking. The court had no faith in the delivery of total quality management for the proposed facility. The location of the facility was inappropriate given its close proximity to sensitive land uses. The court was not satisfied that there would not be unreasonable odour problems for the pre-school and nearest dwelling houses. The Council argued that the concept of a bioremediation facility was an excellent example of ecologically sustainable development. The court agreed. It was consistent with ecologically sustainable development to have a facility which took green wastes away from diminishing land fill and provided value added end products. This was consistent with the core principle of intergenerational equity. It had, however, to be noted that another core principle of ecologically sustainable development was the precautionary principle. The court added that there were many Rio Principles which were relevant to environmental decision-making, including a case such as this. For example, the right to a healthy environment (Principle 1). Indeed, the principle of environmental harm was a major cornerstone in connection with ecologically sustainable development. This was most effectively accomplished through environmental impact assessment processes (Rio Principle 17) involving full public participation (Principle 10). The court concluded that the application should be refused.