Six environmental NGOs on Tuesday came out in support of a private member’s bill for a reform of the legal framework governing the Environment and Resources Authority.

Nationalist MP Robert Cutajar presented the bill to the clerk of the House on Friday.

It proposes to make ERA board meetings open to the public, that its minutes and agendas are public, and that the public and environmental organisations are given the opportunity to make their own representations to the board.

Those proposals mirror calls made by environmental NGOs in a statement earlier this month in which they asked the Environment Minister to sack ERA chairman Victor Axiak. 

Minister Aaron Farrugia replied to those calls by saying he had full faith in Axiak. 

In their statement on Tuesday, the Ramblers' Association, Friends of the Earth, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust and the Archaeological Society reiterated their stance on the need for greater transparency in the way ERA operates.

They said they agreed that all documentation related to particular decisions, including the ERA's minutes, should be made public and that hearings should take place in a public manner.

This, they said, would require the adoption of a system similar to the one used by the Planning Authority. This includes the affixion of public notices related to upcoming decisions, the publishing of documentation on an online portal and the publication of decisions in the Government Gazette for appeal purposes.

The NGOs said they also agreed that environmental organisations should be granted an automatic judicial interest in appeals from the ERA decisions in front of the Environment and Planning Revision Tribunal.

This would end the outdated practice of refusing to hear appeals from NGOs, when these are in fact representing a public interest. They stressed that this would do away with an obsolete practice which has already been suppressed in higher legal fora.

To this end, the NGOs are urging the government to give serious consideration to the bill.

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