Australia's Port Melville challenged in court by environmental body

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 3:28 AM

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's Port Melville on the Tiwi Islands, off the country's north coast, is facing a legal challenge in a federal court brought on by an environmental body concerned the project was approved by the government and built without proper assessment.

The A$130 million ($93 million) facility, developed by a unit of Singapore-based AusGroup, includes a 30-million-litre oil depot on Melville Island, 120 km (74.56 miles) north of Darwin, the capital of Australia's Northern Territory.

Developer Ezion Offshore Logistics Hub (Tiwi) Pty Ltd did not file an environmental impact statement at the time of construction. Australia's Federal Department of the Environment had later ruled that no such statement was necessary.

But the Environment Center Northern Territory, a non-profit environmental body, is challenging the government's decision.

Ian Harris, director of the Environment Center, told Reuters the case was not about shutting down the port, but rather about ensuring due process was followed.

"We have to get these major projects right," Harris said in a separate statement.

"To do that requires proper assessment and planning and we don't believe the government's decision has achieved that."

A spokesman for Australian environment minister Greg Hunt said the project was assessed in accordance with the national environment law, but declined to give any further comments as the matter is currently in court.

The matter was heard in Australia's Federal Court in Darwin on Thursday, and adjourned until April 14.

Calls to AusGroup in Australia and Singapore were not returned.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Himani Sarkar)