28 June 2019

Tree clearing triples in five years: Berejiklian’s conservation laws fail nature

Annual rates of tree clearing for agriculture in NSW have increased three-fold in five years, new government data reveals. [1]

The government’s NSW Woody Vegetation Change 2017-18 report shows the rate of tree clearing increased from 9,200ha in 2013-14 to 27,100ha in 2017-18.

“These figures show one football field of bushland was cleared every 10 minutes for agriculture in 2017-18,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“Today’s data proves that Premier Berejiklian’s repeal of the Native Vegetation Act was a killer blow for wildlife habitat.

“Deforestation in NSW is now out of control - bushland is being bulldozed for agriculture at the fastest rate since 2003.

“We are in an extinction and climate emergency – we must stop destroying wildlife habitat if we are going to stop more species disappearing.

“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.

“I am concerned the figures don’t show the full extent of the destruction that is occurring right now because they cover only the first six months of Premier Berejiklian’s weakened deforestation controls.

“Other government data show approvals have been granted for almost 280,000 hectares of bushland to be bulldozed under codes that let landholders decide for themselves whether the ecological harm from 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.

“The latest figure validate concerns the NSW Auditor-General aired in a report released yesterday that the government had failed to protect native vegetation. [2]

“This was a signature reform of Gladys Berejiklian’s first government and it has been an utter failure.”

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

References

[1] https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/vegetation/reports.htm

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

 

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