27 June 2019

Code-based land clearing is a failure and should be stopped

The Nature Conservation Council calls for the immediate suspension of code-based land clearing and a rigorous independent review of the codes and resources available to police them after a scathing report by the NSW Auditor General. [1]

“This is disaster,” NCC CEO Kate Smolski said. “Hundreds of thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat are being bulldozed under these laws with virtually no oversight, accountability or enforcement of environmental protections.”

 The Auditor General found:

  • Land clearing is not effectively regulated because government processes are weak.
  • There is no evidence clearing of native vegetation is done in accordance with approvals.
  • Responses to incidents of unlawful clearing are slow, with few tangible outcomes.
  • Enforcement action is rarely taken against landholders who unlawfully clear native vegetation.
  • There are processes in place for approving land clearing but there is limited follow-up to ensure approvals are complied with.

The report also found that “unexplained land clearing” can take over two years to identify and analyse, making it difficult to minimise environmental harm or gather evidence to prosecute.

“Despite around 1,000 instances of unexplained clearing, over 500 reports to the environmental hotline each year and around 300 investigations in progress at any one time, there are few prosecutions, remediation orders and penalty notices for unlawful clearing.”

Research by the Nature Conservation Council shows an area of bushland bigger the Australian Capital Territory has been approved for bulldozing since Premier Gladys Berejiklian relaxed land-clearing laws in November 2017.

“Our worst fears are now being realised,” Ms Smolski said. “Government data shows approvals have been granted for almost 280,000 hectares of bushland to be bulldozed under laws that let landholders decide for themselves whether the ecological harm of clearing is acceptable.

“The massive amount of deforestation now in the pipeline in NSW is similar to what we saw in Queensland when former premier Campbell Newman scrapped deforestation controls there.”

Ms Smolski said this report was a key test for the new Environment Minister Matt Kean and the Berejiklian Government. 

“They must not sweep this scathing report under the carpet. We call on Premier Berejiklian to place a moratorium on code-based land clearing and to institute an independent review of the laws and increase the resources available for government authorities.”


[1] https://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/our-work/reports/managing-native-vegetation




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