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Joint statement of the Alliance for Nature on NSW habitat clearing laws

1 May 2024 

The Alliance for Nature NSW is a coalition of leading environmental organisations working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for habitats and wildlife. Together, we represent 220 member groups or branches and around 250,000 supporters and landholders across the state. Our members and supporters consider improved controls on habitat destruction a high priority and are mobilised toward that goal.  

The Minns Labor Government came to power promising to “stop runaway land clearing” and “fix the biodiversity offset scheme”. The government also committed to doubling koala populations in this state. These critical reforms have been delayed and ignored, with concerning indications that some members of the Minns Cabinet are seeking to water down or simply not enact these election commitments.  

The environmental reputation of the government will be seriously harmed if urgent and effective action is not taken. NSW is in the midst of an extinction crisis which will continue to worsen unless the root cause – the widespread and unregulated destruction of our habitat encouraged by the former government – is addressed.  

Across the state, vegetation has degraded to the point where it can only support 30% of the biodiversity it could before British colonisation. More than half (29 million ha) of all native forest and woodland vegetation in NSW has been lost. 

Habitat clearing is, alongside climate change, the most significant threat to species in NSW, the worst ranked state in the country for protecting and restoring trees.  

Since coming to Government in 2023, around 95 000 ha of land and 100 million trees will have been lost, stripping wildlife of their homes and releasing over 7 million tonnes of carbon each year - more than every household in Sydney. Clearing of native vegetation is fundamentally in conflict with action to achieve a safer climate than the current trajectory predicts.  

Right now, those who stand to profit most have been 'self-assessing' the ecological value of land and then approving its destruction. There are no other scenarios in which a business owner or manager can simply give themselves regulatory approval for land use change and development. This preposterous exemption for landholders must be removed. 

The government has the opportunity to continue NSW Labor’s legacy of delivering environmental reforms. We can re-establish NSW as a leader in conservation and land management and make the most of the new technologies and knowledge that are increasingly recognising the critical role biodiversity plays in the long-term viability of our agricultural system.  

To do this, we urge the Minns government to look past the outdated narrative pushed by now irrelevant members of the Nationals party, and to a future for regional NSW where healthy ecosystems form the basis of flourishing regional economies.  

We are at the precipice of a new way of caring for Country. There is a better way to work with the land and look after people and Country together in NSW – one that values ecological diversity, supports landholders with restoration projects, holds bad actors to account, and empowers communities to protect the places they love. As a matter of urgency, we must reform the regulatory system that is rewarding destructive behavior and disadvantaging the many land stewards wishing to deliver for nature. 

We call for strong regulatory reform with support for landholders to work together across tenures and communities to restore habitats, corridors and landscapes and take advantage of the burgeoning world of biodiversity stewardship models.  

The NSW Government should immediately and publicly commit to measures which actively stem biodiversity loss and put the state on a path to being nature positive, including: 

  1. Re-affirming commitments to stop run away land clearing, remove the self-assessment clearing loopholes, make native vegetation management maps statutory and ensure NSW is on a path to have halted and reversed deforestation by 2030. 
  2. Immediately stopping Code-based clearing in all areas of vulnerable and endangered ecological communities, as well as critically endangered ecological communities, by expanding Category 2 - sensitive regulated land to include a broader range of sensitive and high conservation value areas. 
  3. Committing to giving environmental considerations primacy in decision making under all processes and at all scales – whether it is in relation to ending runaway land clearing across the state or to impacts on wildlife because of individual developments. 
  4. Preventing species going extinct, including regional extinctions, supported by a veto on developments that would worsen the state of a species and ecological community. 
  5. Embedding enforceable targets that protect, connect, restore and improve biodiversity, informed by comprehensive and accessible data. 
  6. Banning cash-for-habitat removal practices and other offset approaches that lead to a net loss of remnant habitat. 
  7. Working with conservation groups, First Nations community-controlled organisations, and farming communities to co-design the ways that NSW can ensure ventures into natural capital economies support communities and deliver for nature. 

Statement ends 

Further media statements available upon request.

Media contact: Anna Greer 
E: [email protected] M: 0493 733 529 PH: (02) 7208 9482  

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