2 March 2018

Environment Minister knew 99% of koala habitat would be exposed to land clearing by contentious new laws, FIO document shows

A document obtained under freedom of information laws shows the Berejiklian government knew its new land clearing laws would cause extensive harm to wildlife habitat but pressed ahead with the changes anyway.

“This is damning evidence that the Environment Minister approved these new laws knowing they would expose 99% of identified koala habitat on private land to clearing,” NCC CEO Kate Smolski said.

“The document also shows the Minister was warned the laws could cause a 45% spike in land clearing and that they would mostly benefit very large agribusinesses that could clear land on a massive scale, not smaller enterprises and farming communities across the state.

“It shows what we have suspected all along – environment policy in NSW is being dictated by the National Party and the powerful agribusiness interests the party represents.

“Minister Upton knew these laws were very bad for threatened species and bushland, yet she approved them anyway. This is a disgrace.”

The document, obtained by EDO NSW for the Nature Conservation Council, was prepared by the Office of Environment and Heritage for the Environment Minister and outlined the consequences of Ms Upton agreeing to land-clearing codes proposed by Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair.

Key warnings in the document include:

  • “The regulatory changes will further increase agricultural clearing by between 8% and 45% annually.” (Page 3)
  • Clearing under the code risks: “Removing key habitat for threatened species, including koala habitat (less than 1% of identified koala habitat in NSW is protected from clearing under the Code)” and “Increasing vulnerability of threatened ecological communities”. (Page 6)
  • If unchecked “such clearing could destroy habitats, cause soil and water quality impacts”. (Page 5)
  • “The main benefits are likely to be private benefits for large farming operations which broadscale clear under the Code.” (Page 6)

“These are terrible laws that put our wildlife at risk,” Ms Smolski said. “Premier Berejiklian should act immediately to protect the thousands of hectares of koala habitat at risk by exempting sensitive areas from code-based clearing. “In the longer term, she should go back to the drawing board and draft new laws that protect our precious wildlife and bushland.”

Download the FOI document here

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