Consultation ends today on the finer details of the NSW government’s deeply unpopular Biodiversity Conservation and Local Land Services Amendment Acts. The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) is urging the government to close loopholes and rein in self-assessable codes in order to salvage some protections for NSW’s beleaguered flora and fauna.
NPA CEO Kevin Evans said: “These laws have been, from the very beginning, a political witch hunt.
“A small group of rogue agribusinesses were hell bent on striking down the Native Vegetation Act in order to perform a modern equivalent of slash and burn agriculture.
“We’ve seen shocking allegations in the media about political interference in land clearing investigations; images of burning vegetation thought to be illegally cleared and even witnessed the murder of a compliance officer from the Office of Environment and Heritage who was investigating land clearing.
“It’s from these murky depths that the new laws have surfaced. So it’s no shock they’re not fit for purpose.”
NPA Senior Ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney said: “If the government’s serious about protecting the environment, we have made some recommendations that will make a big difference.
“The Equity Code should be scrapped because it permits broad-scale land clearing. This was never intended in the original review of biodiversity legislation and is a key reason Professor Hugh Possingham resigned from the independent panel.
“The Farm Plan Code should be scrapped because this permits the clearing of paddock trees and woodland patches that are vital havens of biodiversity throughout the sheep-wheat belt. It also places the entire onus of identifying ecological communities onto farmers which is just not fair.
“Exclusions from code-based clearing must apply to vulnerable and endangered ecological communities and species, not just critically endangered.
“The Travelling Stock Route network should immediately be declared an Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value in recognition of its importance both to nature conservation and cultural heritage.
“And the implementation of the entire scheme must be delayed until critical missing pieces of the puzzle are finalised and exhibited. These include the maps, the government’s koala strategy, the grasslands assessment method, the biodiversity conservation investment strategy and the new Vegetation State Environment Planning Policy.
“Importantly, Local Land Services must conclude recruitment and staff training well before implementation. As the primary front line agency implementing these reforms, failing to ensure they’re prepared will result in serious but avoidable problems and a lack of transparency.
“Turning on the legislation before all the pieces are in place is asking for confusion and inviting mistakes.”
Media contacts: Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist: 0431 251 194