The NSW Election is days away and the future of our natural areas will be in the hands of who we elect to represent us in Parliament and who can form Government.

There is so much more to do to safeguard our wildlife. Climate change is already upon us, our rivers are drying up, our public land is being sold off, our bushland is disappearing under housing estates, our precious forests are being shipped off for timber and our koalas are heading for extinction. Help us create a positive future!

NPA believes that a voter who feels passionate about the same issues that NPA represents needs accurate information about the choices on offer at the election.

We do not recommend who you should vote for – that is your personal decision. Our role is to share with you what we think are the most important issues affecting the natural environment and pass on information about what the parties and candidates say they will do about these issues.

Please use this special supplement to make the most of your personal votes. We encourage you to pass this around to your friends who may share the same love of our natural areas.

This is one important way we can each make a difference.


What are the key issues facing NSW: Nature on the Line

The 2019 NSW State Election is on 23 March 2019, and NPA has taken the opportunity to raise four issues that we believe to be of key importance to our environment and community with the major political parties.

These State-wide issues are drawn from the joint environment group platform ‘A Cleaner Greener NSW’ launched in 2018. The nominated issues for discussion are:

Issues:

  1. Expand and Protect Our National Parks and Wilderness
  2. Great Koala National Park & Koalas
  3. Logging of Public Native Forests
  4. Climate Change

We encourage NPA members to examine the policies and actions of their local candidates and/or their party to see how they measure up against our plan for the NSW environment.

Please note that although the major parties were given over a month to respond to the question set, we did not receive an official response from the Liberal party. We did however receive a response from Premier Berejiklian in regard to a set of questions sent for candidate forums that we held in her electorate of Willoughby. We have included the relevant responses.


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Issue 1: Expand and Protect Our National Parks and Wilderness

Background: National Parks and wilderness areas are the main way to ensure nature is protected for future generations. However, National Parks are in trouble in NSW.

The rate of National Park creation has dropped by 95%, and we have seen the unprecedented threat of degazettal of a National Park – to let loggers into the Murray Valley National Park (MVNP). Government proposals to raise Warragamba dam will flood a World Heritage Area and have been criticised by conservation groups as a measure to facilitate development on a flood plain. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has lost experienced staff – making it difficult to effectively manage factors like increased tourism, pests and bushfires. The slowing down of National Park creation, and threat to existing parks reduces our ability to protect species and ecosystems.

Environment groups are demanding that the NSW Government:

  •  Rapidly expand the National Parks estate
  • Increase the National Parks and Wildlife Service budget by $150 million by 2022
  • Ban destructive activities in National Parks
  • Abandon plans to raise the Warragamba Dam wall
  • Protect all remaining wilderness
  • Ensure no National Parks are degazetted

Please outline how you will protect our national parks and wilderness with reference to the above key issues’

The Greens – Ms Cate Faehrmann, MLC.

The Greens will expand and protect our National Parks and Wilderness.

We support a rapid expansion of the National Parks estate, in line with the NPA’s 50 Parks proposal, including the creation of the Great Koala National Park on the mid-north coast.

The Greens have consistently opposed any National Parks land being degazetted and also support an end to logging in public native forests and the transfer of these lands to the National Parks estate or to Native Title holders.

We support an increase to the National Parks and Wildlife budget of at least $150 million per annum to rebuild and reinvigorate the Parks service

The Greens are also campaigning to stop the destructive expansion of the Warragamba Dam wall.

NSW Labor – The Hon. Penny Sharpe, MLC, Deputy Leader of the NSW Labor Party.

NSW Labor will support and enhance the treasured national parks estate of NSW. Labor will:

  • Create a Koala National Park in south-west Sydney for the remaining population of koalas along the Georges River, protecting the last disease-free population of koalas in the state.
  • Create a Great Koala National Park in northern NSW to save significant populations of koalas in northern NSW from an uncertain future and possible extinction.
  • Protect the Kosciuszko National Park by repealing the Barilaro Wild Horse Heritage Act and investing in the park to address invasive species, including horses. Labor will also invest in repair and restoration of the mountain catchments.
  • Boost resources and staff to address invasive pests and weeds in national parks and enhance fire trail maintenance, including a $50 million funding boost across agencies and the establishment of an independent NSW Weeds Committee.
  • Protect wilderness areas in NSW and plan for the formal identification and declaration of remaining wilderness areas, particularly in the under-represented western division and the central and eastern divisions. Labor will also prohibit horse riding in declared wilderness areas to preserve their rare, unspoilt environments.
  • Progress nomination of the Royal National Park for world heritage listing as a priority, after the Liberals and Nationals stalled the nomination indefinitely.
  • Prohibit commercial logging, amateur hunting and grazing of hoofed animals anywhere in our national parks estate.
  • Oppose the inundation of 65 kilometres of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park, as part of the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall.
  • Reject any proposal to de-gazette a national park, including the Nationals’ support for de-gazetting Murray Valley National Park and logging the internationally significant river red gum forests.

Liberal-National Coalition – The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, MP, NSW Premier.

How will your party protect our existing National Parks and wilderness areas and expand this ecologically important parks network?

The NSW Government is committed to building a robust network of open space, wilderness and cultural treasures. Protecting land in a range of reserve categories across the national parks system is the cornerstone of our commitment to biodiversity conservation.

This work is supported by a commitment of $50 million over five years to purchase high-priority land for addition to the national parks estate, under the Environmental Trust’s Land Acquisition Program. This funding effectively doubles the amount NSW spends on purchasing conservation land over the next five years.

This investment in land acquisition for national parks, combined with our conservation efforts on private land, demonstrates the government’s commitment to improve environmental outcomes for NSW.

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Issue Two: Great Koala National Park & Koalas

Background: Koalas are a national icon, but between the 1990s and 2010 their numbers plunged by more than 30% in NSW. This is because currently most koalas in NSW live outside protected areas and logging, land clearing and urban expansion threaten their habitat, while climate change is causing greater heat and drought-related impacts. The State Government’s koala strategy was recently criticized by conservation groups as being completely ineffective and insufficient to prevent koala extinction.

Through the creation of the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) in the Coffs Harbour hinterland, and other koala reserves proposed by NPA, we can give our dwindling koala population the habitat they need to thrive again. The GKNP would provide well-connected habitats for koalas, and a whole range of other native wildlife, and help the state become a world leader in nature-based tourism, recreation, and outdoor education.

Environment groups are demanding that the NSW Government:

  • Establish the Great Koala National Park in the Coffs Harbour hinterland, a biodiversity hotspot that is home to two nationally-recognised meta-populations of koalas.
  • Implement a robust koala strategy that protects all known and potential koala habitat and addresses all current threats to koala populations
  • Protect koala habitat from logging and land clearing

Please outline how you will protect NSW’s vulnerable koala populations and their habitat, with reference to the above key issues’

NSW Greens

Koala populations in NSW are on the brink of collapse due to habitat destruction, inadequate protections and urban expansion. The Greens support the protection of all known and potential koala habitat, especially areas that have been mapped as of regional koala significance already. This includes the establishment and funding of a Great Koala National Park near Coffs Harbour to ensure the remaining healthy populations in that region survive and thrive.

We also support the end of native forest logging and creation of a $1.5 billion land and biodiversity fund to ensure better ecosystem connectivity for koalas and other wildlife throughout the landscape.

NSW Labor

NSW Labor has been a strong and consistent critic of the Liberals & Nationals destructive approach to koalas and their habitat in NSW, which has left the state faced with the potential for koalas to become extinct in the wild by 2050. Not only has the Berejiklian Government failed to reserve significant koala habitat within the national parks estate, it has also introduced new tree clearing laws that could result in the clearing up to 99% of koala habitat on private land. Already, deforestation of koala habitat has increased in north-west NSW.

Labor has a strong set of policies to protect koalas in NSW, with more to be announced in the lead-up to the election. Labor will:

  • Create a Koala National Park in south-west Sydney for the remaining population of koalas along the Georges River, protecting the last disease-free population of koalas in the state.
  • Create a Great Koala National Park in northern NSW.
  • Hold a NSW Koala Summit to bring together experts and all stakeholders concerned with koala protection to plan effective action across the state.
  • Reinstate the protections for the environment that were lost under the Berejiklian Government’s so-called biodiversity conservation reforms to stop the clearing and deforestation of high conservation value areas like koala habitat.
  • Buy back the core koala habitat at the Mambo Wetlands in Port Stephens that was sold off by the Liberals and Nationals to a private developer.

Liberal-National Coalition

Will you commit to gazetting the Great Koala National Park to secure the future of our most iconic species?

The NSW Government recognises the koala as an iconic species and is delivering koala conservation outcomes.

In May 2018, the NSW Government released the NSW Koala Strategy committing $44.7 million towards securing the future of koalas in the wild. This is the biggest commitment by any state government to koalas and will support a range of conservation actions over three years.

The Koala Strategy will deliver:

  • $20 million from the NSW Environmental Trust to purchase and permanently conserve land that contains priority koala habitat in the national park estate
  • $3 million to build a new koala hospital at Port Stephens
  • $3.3 million to fix priority road-kill hotspots across NSW
  • $4.5 million to improve the care of sick or injured koalas
  • $6.9 million to improve our knowledge of koalas starting with the development of a state-wide koala habitat information base
  • $5 million to deliver local actions to protect koala populations, including through the Saving Our Species program
  • $2 million to research impacts of natural hazards and weather events on koalas

A centrepiece of the Koala Strategy is setting aside large area of land where koalas can thrive, and new habitats can be created. Under the Koala Strategy, more than 24,000 hectares of state forest is being set aside for koalas. These koala parks and reserves will be actively managed to ensure prime koala habitat is conserved.

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Issue Three: Logging of Public Native Forests

Background: Extensive clearing of native forests and bushland has caused dramatic declines in biodiversity and ecosystem function across NSW. Two million hectares of NSW’s state native forests continue to be exploited for commercial logging, with extremely detrimental impacts on native habitat and wildlife, soils, water, and carbon stores. The Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) that were developed to manage multiple uses of public native forests – nature conservation, timber extraction and recreation – have failed, yet the government recently announced their extension for 20 years. There is an inherent contradiction between protecting the natural values of forests and maximising wood production and profits.

Environment groups are demanding that the NSW Government:

  • End the logging of native forests on public land over the next 3 years
  • Fund and implement a transition of state forests to a mix of protected area categories for conservation, public recreation, Aboriginal culture and tourism by 2021.
  • Ban burning of native forests for electricity

Please outline how you will protect the natural value of our public native forests from commercial logging and the destructive RFAs with reference to the above key issues’

NSW Greens

The Greens support an end to all logging in our public native forests within 3 years and have introduced amendments to legislation in parliament to achieve this. We believe the Regional Forests Agreements have failed to protect the natural values of our forests and should be abandoned.

The Greens support significant funds being used to assist the industry through the transition to plantation-only production.

We support all existing public native forests being transferred to the National Parks estate or to Native Title holders and to be held as a mix of protected area categories for conservation, public recreation, Aboriginal culture and tourism.

The Greens firmly oppose the burning of native forests for electricity and have introduced legislation to ban the practice.

NSW Labor

Labor recognises the intrinsic value and vital role that forests – on public land as National Parks and State forests, and on private land – play in protecting biodiversity and water systems and in mitigating the effects of climate change.

It is NSW Labor policy to ensure the dedication of viable reserves, representative of all native forest ecosystems in the State and minimise further clearing of native forests, and ensure that where forests are determined to have a timber production role, the forest resource is managed on environmentally sound sustainable yield and multiple use lines.

The NSW Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) have been hastily renewed by the Liberals and Nationals without an adequate scientific assessment of the assumptions underpinning the agreements or the outcome of their operations. Further, they failed to undertake a key recommendation from their own reviewer before renewing the agreements: to conduct a contemporary review of the native forest timber industry that considers the effect of climate change.

If elected, a NSW Labor Government will establish a full independent scientific assessment of the outcomes of the agreements. This assessment will examine the assumptions of the original RFAs compared to the experience of their operation for resource management, biodiversity outcomes, and the effects of climate change.

NSW Labor is deeply concerned about the lack of scientific rigour and substandard consultation in the making of the new Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (Coastal IFOA).

If elected, Labor will suspend the operation of the new Coastal IFOA in order to safeguard the environment, including old-growth forest, rainforest, and koala habitat, and to ensure a robust evidence base for the new rules. The previous rules would be applied until an independent scientific review is carried out – without interference – including the consideration of climate change and the further value of forests for carbon storage.

Finally, Labor believes that burning of native forest timber and cleared vegetation for electricity production is not clean or renewable energy, and forms no part of a credible strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Labor will reinstate the prohibition on burning native forests and cleared vegetation for electricity.

Liberal-National Coalition

Will you support calls to end logging of public native forests over the next 3 years?

No. As detailed in the NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap, the NSW Government is committed to a sustainably managed forest estate that underpins a dynamic, economically efficient forestry industry and delivers social, economic and environmental benefits.

The NSW Government has undertaken extensive reform of the rules governing public native forestry, introducing a new Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval that delivers improved protections for environmental sustainability, biodiversity and threatened species while maintaining timber supply to industry.

The NSW Government has also introduced tougher penalties for non-compliance and those who do the wrong thing. Under new forestry reforms, on-the-spot fines for breaches increase from $1,100 to $15,000 and maximum penalties are up from $110,000 to $2 million. An intentional breach that causes significant environmental harm can now lead to a penalty as high as $5 million.

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Issue Four: Climate Change

Background: Climate change is happening now – our forests, rivers, wildlife and communities are already feeling its effects. Unprecedented heat waves, warming oceans, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns and lengthening bushfire seasons are threatening communities and nature. On 8 October 2018 the UN released a landmark report that warned of significant global climate consequences unless carbon emissions are cut to zero by 2050. The Commonwealth’s State of the Environment Report 2017 concluded that climate change is one of the main pressures on the environment. Doctors for the Environment Australia state that climate change is the greatest threat to human health in the current century, with our children living in a world of rising temperatures and increasing extreme weather events.

The impacts of climate change are increasing and some of the changes could be irreversible. There is a great deal of support for strong and cohesive action to tackle this global problem.

Environment groups are demanding that the NSW Government:

  • Set binding clean-energy targets
  • Create a $2 billion Regional Renewable Energy Fund
  •  Provide universal access to cheap clean energy
  • Set a binding target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040

Please outline how you will take strong action to ameliorate climate change at the State Government level with reference to the above key issues’

NSW Greens

The impacts of climate change are being felt right now and our forests, wildlife and biodiversity are frontline victims in this crisis. We have a responsibility to be taking rapid and meaningful action to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by at least 2040. To achieve this action is needed across all sectors of the economy and that is why the Greens have announced plans to push for a state based price on carbon, to introduce binding emissions reduction targets and establish a Climate Change Commission.

We also need to rapidly decarbonize our electricity sector and introduce a binding state based 100% renewable energy target by 2030. To help achieve this we support the creation of at least a $2 billion Regional Renewable Energy Fund, a $1.25 billion household solar and battery fund, legislated closure dates for coal fired power stations, a battery and storage target and investment in new transmission infrastructure.

NSW Labor

A Daley Labor Government will appoint a Minister for Climate Change and commence the task of tackling climate change with the transformation of our electricity sector, the single largest source of carbon emissions.

So far in this campaign, we have announced Labor’s plan to put solar on the rooftops of another 500,000 houses, taking NSW to 1 million solar homes by 2030 – putting an extra 2 gigawatts of clean electricity into the system.

We have also announced the single largest program of investment in large-scale renewable energy in Australia, if not the world, with our plan to build a further 7 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, backed by appropriate levels of storage, through a series of reverse auctions and the activities of a new, State-owned corporation.

A Daley Labor Government will commission 4 gigawatts in its first term.

By 2030, these measures will power over 3 million homes – as many as we have in NSW today – and cut around 14 per cent of today’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Together with our commitments on cutting deforestation and land clearing, and planting 6 million trees by 2030, including 2 million trees in the next four years, this is a substantial commencement in addressing climate change in our State.

We will have further, important commitments to make in this area soon.

Liberal-National Coalition

How will you go about implementing strong action on Climate Change?

The NSW Government’s Climate Change Policy Framework sets out our aspirational long-term objectives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and to make NSW more resilient to a changing climate. The NSW Government is investing $1.4 billion through the Climate Change Fund to improve our energy security, place downward pressure on bills, and reduce emissions. We will be doing this by targeting energy efficiency, clean energy, and programs to help communities and business adapt to a changing climate.

Some of the projects we are funding through the Climate Change Fund include:

  • $24.5 million to upgrade more than 20,000 rental homes to enable low-income renters to save up to $400 a year on their energy bills through energy efficient lighting, heating and hot water systems.
  • A $30 million program to enable communities across the State to build their own local clean energy projects.
  • The $55 million Emerging Energy program to help the private sector develop and accelerate clean energy technology, such as pumped hydro.

We will also take the pressure off household energy costs and lower emissions by supporting the rollout of up to 300,000 new solar energy and battery storage systems with no upfront costs through interest-free loans. This new initiative will help unlock up to $3.2 billion in clean energy investment over 10 years, helping boost NSW’s renewable energy and reduce emissions. The batteries will add up to 3,000MWh of storage when the program is fully rolled out.

We are also continuing to work with all governments to develop a sensible national plan to deliver secure, affordable and sustainable energy to households and businesses.

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