Conservation groups are appalled by the Coalition’s announcement today that it will seek to repeal the Native Vegetation Act if returned to government this Saturday.

“This is a black day for the state’s threatened wildlife and fragile soils,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said. “The Native Vegetation Act is among the most important nature conservation laws in NSW because it protects so much of the state’s wildlife like koalas and gliders from indiscriminate destruction. If new laws weaken protections for land and wildlife, Mike Baird will be remembered as the Premier who took us back to the dark days of broad scale land clearing.”

WWF National Manager of Science Policy and Government Partnerships Paul Toni said: “This law prevents uncontrolled land clearing, and has been credited with saving the lives of more than 250,000 native animals in its first five years of operation.[1] Abolishing it will have dire consequences for our native wildlife, soils, and water resources.”

Total Environment Centre Executive Director Jeff Angel said: “By leaving it so late in the campaign to announce this major policy shift, the Coalition cannot legitimately claim an electoral mandate for trashing the state’s most important nature conservation laws. The Coalition proposes the most significant overhaul of the state’s conservation laws in more than a generation, so the community requires time to understand the full implications of scrapping these laws. Detail proposals should be presented to the people so they can vote on them at the 2019 election.”

Nationals Leader Troy Grant and Environment Minister Rob Stokes announced today the Coalition would implement all the recommendations of the Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel [2], including:

  • Repealing the Native Vegetation Act 2003;
  • Removing the requirement that land clearing only be allowed if it improves or maintains environmental outcomes;
  • Placing greater reliance on biodiversity offsets; and
  • Shifting approval for vegetation clearing to the planning system.

NSW National Parks Association CEO Kevin Evans said: “There is widespread concern within the environment movement about the Coalition’s plans to draft new conservation laws to replace the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act, and parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The Coalition’s has had a poor record on nature conservation over the past four years, so the community has little faith that protections will be maintained or improved in the new law.”

Humane Society International Campaign Director Michael Kennedy said: “The Coalition partners have been highly susceptible to pressure from developers and extreme elements in the farming community. We are concerned these elements will use their influence during the drafting of new laws to further unwind protections the community has fought decades to achieve.”

The Wilderness Society Acting NSW Campaign Manager Charlotte Richardson said: “Scrapping the Native Vegetation Act would undermine the $100 million commitment to threatened species recovery that Environment Minister Rob Stokes announced during the election campaign. The Native Vegetation Act was implemented in 2005 after a sustained campaign by The Wilderness Society and other conservation organisations, and since the law was introduced land clearing has declined by about 60 per cent a year. With almost 1000 plants and animals threatened with extinction in NSW, we cannot afford to go backwards on environmental protection.”

REFERENCES

[1] www.wwf.org.au/?9520/NSW-land-clearing-law-saves-265000-native-mammals

[2] www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversitylegislation/review.htm