Environmental Law Expertise

Agriculture and aquaculture
Climate change
Coastal and marine issues
Contaminated land
Conservation and biodiversity
Due diligence
Environmental impact assessment
Forestry
Good Governance and the Rule of Law
Heritage & heritage impact assessment
Legal Registers & Compliance Auditing
Mining
Pollution control & waste management
Renewable energy
Water

 

Agriculture and aquaculture

Cullinans represent and advise many clients in the agriculture sector on a range of issues including: resisting inappropriate mining on farms, water rights, agro-industries (e.g. compost manufacture and mushroom production), veld and forest fires, alien invasive species, environmental impact assessments, the laws regulating plant husbandry, seed import and export, phytosanitary obligations and genetically modified organisms.

Our lawyers also have extensive expertise in relation to aquaculture gained in many countries and prepared a handbook on the legal aspects of undertaking aquaculture in South Africa for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Climate change

The firm advises on a range of climate change related issues and Cormac Cullinan is a member of the Climate Change Think Tank of the City of Cape Town. Our expertise in relation to climate change includes drafting and advising on agreements for the sale and purchase of carbon credits (Verified Emission Purchase Agreements), agreements for the development of projects to generate carbon credits and drafting rules for the operation of a carbon exchange. (See also Renewable Energy below)

Coastal and marine issues

The firm’s attorneys have particular expertise in relation to the coastal and marine environment, and we led the drafting of the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act; advised on the development of the national ballast water policy, the small-scale fisheries policy, the development of coastal setback/ management lines, and the development of monitoring, control and surveillance systems to prevent illegal and unreported fishing in the waters of SADC countries.

We have experience in advising on: admiralty reserve areas, leases of areas of the sea or seashore (coastal public property), the rights of coastal landowners to protect their properties against erosion, sea-level rise and shifting sand dunes, the management of estuaries, small-scale fishing rights, mariculture, marine protected areas and the establishment of structures in the sea or on the seashore.

Contaminated land

The firm has extensive experience in advising clients on the remediation, sale, purchase and management of contaminated land (including land contaminated by asbestos). This includes advice on the potential liability of companies and their directors as well as cost recovery measures.

Conservation and biodiversity

The firm has considerable expertise in relation to the legal aspects of the conservation and management of indigenous flora and fauna and protected areas and our lawyers regularly provide advice to national, provincial and local government and other public sector bodies in relation to conservation related issues. This has included drafting a Western Cape Biodiversity Conservation Bill, advising on the rationalisation of conservation functions in the Western Cape, and litigating to uphold the right of municipalities to make bylaws to protect the environment. We also have experience in advising on the implementation of international treaties (e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing in relation to genetic resources, and the World Heritage Convention).

Our expertise includes advising on: conservation agreements for the management of private nature reserves, material transfer agreements and access and benefit sharing agreements in relation to genetic resources, the law applicable to large predators, baboon management on the Cape Peninsular, threatened and protected species, and the control of alien and invasive species.

Due diligence

Cullinans is experienced in conducting pre-acquisition environmental due diligence audits for major corporations operating in various sectors, based locally and abroad. It has acted for both purchasers and sellers, advising on environmental liability and drafting environmental warranties.

Environmental impact assessment

We regularly advise on all aspects of EIA processes including: advising on compliance with legislation, drafting administrative appeals against decisions to award or deny environmental authorisations and instituting proceeding before the High Court to review such decisions.

Forestry

The firm has expertise in all aspects of forestry law, including the rights and obligations of owners of commercial plantations and indigenous forests. Lawyers in the firm drafted the Forestry Protocol to the SADC Treaty and are familiar with forestry issues and concerns in other SADC countries. We have also advised large commercial forestry companies on environmental authorisation issues and environmental law compliance management.

Good Governance and the Rule of Law

Good governance means ensuring that decision-makers follow lawful procedures when making decisions regarding the management of public resources (for instance the granting of authorisations or licences) and that the decision-making and implementation of government policies is participatory, transparent, equitable and inclusive. Cullinan & Associates have a wealth of experience in advising and litigating on administrative law issues that promote good governance in South Africa.  We have litigated successfully to establish important precedents regarding access to information and freedom of expression, the powers of municipalities to protect the environment, and to challenge the unlawful granting of environmental authorisations. 

Heritage & heritage impact assessment

South African law defines the "environment" as the surroundings within which humans exist and which influence human health and well-being, including our cultural heritage. Cullinan’s has advised on heritage issues (particularly in the context of land development) for almost two decades.  For example we represented the Cape Institute of Architecture in appeal proceedings before the National Heritage Council to ensure the protection of the heritage integrity of the Boschendal Estate and protecting the cultural heritage of the amaMpondo people is at the heart of the litigation opposing the proposed N2 Wild Coast Toll  Highway. We regularly advise on heritage issues in the context of environmental impact assessments and on heritage authorisation. We authored the LexisNexis’ Practical Guidance Chapter on Heritage legislation in South Africa. 

Legal Registers & Compliance Auditing

Cullinan & Associates has almost twenty year experience in conducting environmental and health and safety legal compliance audits for clients in many different sectors. These include a physical site audit and a review of documents required by environmental, health and safety legislation such as permits, licenses, and authorisations. We have developed a state-of-the –art, web-based compliance management system that provides clear instructions on how to comply with the law when performing each business activity to enable our clients to minimise their legal risk at all times (see https://spoton-compliance.com/ ). Subscribers to the SpotOn system have access to up-to-date legal information and ISO compliant legal registers at all times and our specialist lawyers will provide subscribers with any additional clarification that they may require at no additional charge.

Mining

Cullinans provides clients with a range of advice in relation to mining and the environment. We have successfully represented a wide range of clients in stopping inappropriate mining operations in forests, on farms and in residential areas and helped the City of Cape Town win a precedent-setting Constitutional Court judgement in the Maccsand case.

Pollution control & waste management

The firm advises on all compliance and liability issues, including personal liability, posed by pollution and waste. It has particular expertise in the waste management sector and has advised a number of municipalities, and waste management and recycling companies on a wide range of waste-related issues.

The firm’s attorneys have also drafted integrated waste prevention and management legislation for the KwaZulu-Natal province, and waste management legislation for Swaziland.

Renewable energy

The firm has a growing practice in the field of renewable energy and two of the firm’s directors were members of the transaction advisory team that advised the South African government on the procurement of electricity from renewable energy sources under the IPP Procurement Programme. Our clients include independent power producers (IPPs) generating electricity from wind, small-scale hydro, concentrated solar power (CSP), Photovoltaic panels (PV), wave energy and marine currents.

Our expertise in relation to renewable energy includes:

  • advising on the legal and policy framework for renewable energy;
  • site acquisition advice and agreements (leases, servitudes, environmental impact assessment, zoning etc),
  • establishing legal entities and corporate structuring for IPPs, including drafting memoranda of incorporation (MOI) and shareholders’ agreements for project companies
  • establishing and implementing legal models to facilitate the participation of local communities/BBBEE partners in renewable energy projects, including drafting trust deeds and memoranda of incorporation;
  • advising on Corruption Act indemnities and relationship with funding agreements and shareholder agreements; and
  • reviewing and advising on financing agreements for renewable energy projects.

Water

Cullinans regularly advises clients on all aspects of water law and policy. This includes advice regarding: the status of water rights, the registration and transfer of water use rights, effluent discharge and the legal provisions governing wetlands and watercourses.

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