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After one year in government, peak environment body asks how the Minns government stack up on environment.

MEDIA RELEASE
28th March 2024 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today released a scorecard assessing the Minns government's performance on the protection of nature and climate action.  

Overall: Positive environmental reform is again underway in NSW, after a decade of weakened environmental protections that led to devastating, widespread ecological destruction.  However, in order to address the urgent threats facing nature and the climate, we need to lift our game. 

Statements attributable to Jacqui Mumford, NCC CEO: 

“The government has made good progress on delivering on many of their election commitments, particularly when it comes to restoring our rivers and legislating ambitious emissions reduction targets.  

“There has also been a marked shift in tone, with the Labor government seeking to listen to and work with members of the environmental movement.  

"However, habitat clearing, and native forest logging are still occurring at a devastating scale in NSW, and until our broken land clearing laws are fixed we will continue to see the fragmentation and destruction of our ecosystems, and subsequent extinction and ecological collapse."  

"Years of delay have left massive challenges and roadblocks for our energy transition that need to be overcome. Meanwhile, John Barilario’s 'let's dig up as much as we can’ views on coal and gas mining have still not been reviewed, risking widespread environmental devastation that dramatically undermines clean energy investment."  

"The silence on marine protections is extremely disappointing. We’re eager to see progress and detail on how the commitments to improve First Nations access to water and will be achieved. And more action to enhance Indigenous management and ownership of protected areas." 

"We urge the Minns government to recognise that the community cares deeply about the nature that makes this state so special, and is crying out for leadership and ambition in this space."

Ranking System: Good Progress being made / Need to lift our game / Little progress    

Taking action on climate change 

  • Passage of a Climate Change Act with legislated emissions reduction targets. 
  • Establishment of a powerful and nation-leading Net-Zero Commission.  
  • Legislated ban on offshore petroleum exploration and production. 
  • Codified the EPA’s powers to introduce guidelines and regulate greenhouse emissions and climate action.  

Transition our energy system to renewables 

  • Approval of new renewables projects that will power over 1.5m homes and delivery of multiple Capacity Investment Scheme auctions. 
  • The proposed Consumer Energy Strategy is welcome - it needs to include ambitious targets for household electrification and battery storage.  
  • Flagged changes to renewables planning approvals are welcomed, but it is not yet clear how this will be delivered, clear actions and accountability mechanisms are needed. 
  • Energy Security Corporation and offshore wind strategy - we haven’t yet seen any progress to deliver these commitments.  
  • The discussion about delaying the closure of Eraring is worrying and unnecessary. NSW can and should replace coal with renewables and battery projects. 

Protect forests and end native forest logging 

  • Progress is being made to establish the GKNP, and interim protections for key Koala hubs. 
  • Development of a new Koala Strategy is underway and new protections for key Koala habitat in South West Sydney are welcome. 
  • Logging is still continuing in critical habitats for both Koalas and Greater Gliders.  
  • The government’s commitment to a more sustainable forestry sector through a Forestry Industry Action Plan is welcome. But this will only be genuine with a plan to shift to 100% plantations and end native forest logging.  
  • No action taken to protect critical habitats from logging on private land.  

Nature protection and restoration 

  • Evidence-based management of invasive species in Kosciuszko National Park is a significant and welcome step forward. 
  • Landcare funding increased, with a commitment to double funding over four years.  
  • We are confident that the government will soon address some of the most pressing issues with the biodiversity offset scheme – we look forward to the details 
  • Progress is being made on a new National Parks establishment plan, but it’s not yet clear if funding will be adequate to achieve our ‘30 by 30’ goals. 
  • Runaway land remains out of control in NSW, and huge swathes of critical habitat have been lost since the government was elected. They have so far not taken action to remove the self-assessment loophole and deliver their commitment to ‘stop runaway land clearing’.  
  • Little progress has been made towards expanded joint management of National Parks, Indigenous ranger programs, or to assist Indigenous groups to purchase and manage land for conservation.  

Restore rivers and wetlands 

  • New and strengthened commitments to considering the future impacts of climate change on water flows, including extraction limits and allocations in the MDB and on the coast.  
  • Canceled destructive dam projects including Dungowan, Wyangala Dam and the Warragamba Dam wall raising.   
  • Productive work with the Commonwealth to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan in full. 
  • Returned harvestable rights limit in coastal catchments to 10 per cent.  
  • Established the expert panel on connectivity, tasked the Chief Scientist to report on fish kills.  
  • NSW should drop its opposition to voluntary water recovery by the Commonwealth, and stop proposing untested, dubious projects as alternatives to voluntary water purchases.   
  • Substantial progress needs to be made to improve First Nations ownership and control of fresh water. 
  • All of the legally required Dam Safety Upgrade fishway projects required since 2009 must be completed as agreed.  
  • Accelerate regulation reform to streamline coastal wetland restoration projects. 

Protect our Oceans 

  • The EPA’s next steps plastics plan is a welcome strategy to extend the ban on single use and problematic plastics, we look forward to its full delivery.  
  • New protections for the Blue Groper are welcome.  
  • Protections for marine sanctuary zones that were eroded by the Nationals are yet to be restored.  
  • There are no clear plans to expand the marine protected network or deliver the long overdue Sydney Marine Park.  
  • Outdated shark nets continue to snare turtles and dolphins off our beaches. 

Fossil Fuels 

  • The government continues to allow environmentally destructive, poorly regulated and heavily polluting coal and gas mining to occur in NSW.
  • The government has recommended approval for one coal mine (Boggabri) and has failed to ensure new coal approvals are “subject to an independent approval process” as expansions continue to be assessed as ‘modifications.
  • Despite admitting they are potentially not fit for purpose, they have taken no action to update John Barilaro’s outdated ‘Strategic Statement on Coal’.  
  • Stronger regulation is needed to protect Sydney’s drinking water catchment and threatened habitats, including upland swamps from mining activities. 
  • The Vales Point power station should stop receiving nitrous oxide pollution limits exemptions, and pollution standards should be strengthened for remaining coal fired power plants. 

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