Social justice and the environment are important issues for our firm. We take pride in representing individuals and organisations who are working to protect the environment, fighting against laws that are unjust and working to improve the quality of life for people in our community. We frequently take on matters that we consider to be of importance to the community at a reduced fee or on a no win, no fee basis and our solicitors regularly volunteer their time to community and not-for-profit organisations.
FitzGerald and Browne represented Senator Bob Brown in the Wielangta case, which was commenced in the Federal Court of Australia in 2005. That case involved proceedings against Forestry Tasmania for breach of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, as a result of logging and proposed logging operations in Wielangta State Forest near Hobart, which is a key habitat of rare and threatened species.
The case was run on the basis that the forestry operations were likely to have a significant impact upon three listed threatened species: the Wedge Tailed Eagle, the Wielangta Stag Beetle and the Swift Parrot. Senator Brown was successful in those proceedings and obtained injunctions preventing any further logging in the Wielangta area by Forestry Tasmania. That case was argued on the basis of the terms of the Regional Forest Agreement 1997 (“RFA”), between Tasmania and the Commonwealth. Immediately after the announcement of the judgment, the Federal Government and the State of Tasmania amended the terms of the RFA and then filed an appeal against the judgment of the trial judge. The Full Court of the Federal Court ultimately found in favour of Forestry Tasmania, but this case helped to bring community attention to the management of our state forests.
The firm represented the Triabunna 13, who were sued for trespass arising out of a protest in January 2009 at Gunns’ woodchip mill at Triabunna. The Triabunna 13, or at least 11 of them, counterclaimed against Gunns, alleging that Gunns Limited and its employee, Calton Frame, engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in asserting that no old growth tree or no old growth forests will be used in the construction of the proposed pulp mill. That litigation settled out of court.
Gunns Pulp Mill
We acted for The Wilderness Society Inc. in proceedings in the Federal Court against the Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, and Gunns Limited in relation to the process to be adopted for the approval of the proposed Gunns pulp mill in the beautiful Tamar Valley. In 2008, we represented Environment Tasmania Inc. and three Tamar Valley landholders in further proceedings in relation to the proposed pulp mill, this time in the Supreme Court of Tasmania. These proceedings were unsuccessful, with the Supreme Court finding that s. 11 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007 precluded any court challenge to any issue arising out of the decision to grant the permit for the construction of the pulp mill.
In October 2011 we launched proceedings in the Supreme Court against Gunns Limited on behalf of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust Inc. (TCT) alleging the permit issued to Gunns under the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007 was invalid, as there had been no substantial commencement of the project by Gunns. An application by Gunns that TCT pay security for its costs was dismissed by the Court in April 2012. Gunns’ appeal to a Judge was dismissed in August 2012. Gunns went into administration and receivership in September 2012.
Department of Health and Human Services
We have taken on a case for a girl who was meant to be under the supervision of her guardian, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and intended to sue them (and others). Because the government would not agree to fund her in obtaining medical reports for her case we launched a public fund for her legal costs which raised over $10,000.
Save Ralphs Bay Inc.
Roland proudly represented Save Ralphs Bay Inc. in a long running case about a $250 million canal estate development in Ralphs Bay near Hobart. The proposal by Walker Corporation for the development attracted strong opposition from the local community due to concerns it would destroy native wildlife habitats and reduce public access to the foreshore. The proposal was thrown out by the Tasmanian Resource Planning and Development Commission as being “unsustainable”.
Roland works in the civil and criminal areas, including administrative review, anti-discrimination, environment and planning and federal workers compensation. In the criminal area he has a busy practice defending forest protesters and other civilly disobedient people. Roland is also the chair of Gun Control Australia.