THE work of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) and other community legal centres is under threat with funding guidelines under review.
The EDO has offices in Sydney and Lismore and has already had its 2013 funding slashed by one quarter, with no guarantee of ongoing funds.
The move comes after attacks on the EDO over the last few months in the NSW Parliament by the Shooters and Fishers Party, questioning the organisation's role in providing the community with independent legal advice on environmental issues.
The Australian newspaper has also accused the organisation of secretly working with Greenpeace to draft a plan to cripple the coal industry. An allegation denied by the EDO.
Questions about the organisations relationship with groups such as Lock the Gate have also been raised, with the Energy Minister Chris Hartcher accusing the group of being allied with radical socialists.
"This isn't just about coal, this is about a leftist agenda to destroy the economy," Mr Hartcher was reported as saying.
It is understood the review is being conducted by the Public Purpose Fund (PPF) at the request of the NSW Government.
The PPF, administered by the NSW Law Society, funds 36 community legal centres across the state, including the EDO and the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre based in Lismore.
However, the NSW Attorney General has a final say over the fund's allocation.
EDO executive director Jeff Smith said at a time the NSW Government claims it wants to re-engage the community in planning and local decision making, it is considering cutting funding to the one organisation that is designed to empower the community to participate in government reforms and processes on planning and environmental issues.
He called on the NSW Government to reaffirm and maintain its support for the work of the EDO, both through continuing its own funding allocations and supporting PPF grants.
"This trend of seeking to diminish funding to an organisation that exists to empower community engagement in environmental matters is alarming, and the increasing uncertainty is very damaging. Declining and only short-term funding makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a strong, independent EDO NSW, that can support its clients, and operate free of the politics of the day."
Northern Rivers' EDO senior solicitor Sue Higginson said the loss of PPF funding would mean the end of the EDO as we know it.
The PPF currently provides about 70% of the EDO's funding.
Ms Higginson said the organisation provided impartial expert advice and education to the community on a variety of legal issue relating to the environment.
"Nothing has changed. We are doing the same work we have always done, in accordance with the terms of our funding agreements" she said.
She said the bulk of the EDO's work focused on planning laws. It also advises on native vegetation, chemicals, water, forestry and biodiversity protection law.
The EDO is not the only organisation anxiously waiting for the outcome of the review.
Manager of the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre Angela Pollard said her organisation had been left in the dark about the review and the first she knew of it was through media reports.
"We have not been advised there is a review, or its terms of reference or who is conducting it," she said.
Community legal centres have not been advised as to whether they will have input, what the time lines would be and what the outcomes will be, Ms Pollard said.