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NSW clearing 640 football fields of land per day, the majority unexplained

August 1st 2023 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the states leading environmental advocacy organisation, has called on the NSW Government to act on its commitment to stop the runaway land clearing that is decimating NSW bush. 

The latest land clearing data shows that land clearing continues to devastate large swathes of vegetation every year. In NSW, an equivalent of 350 times the CBD is cleared annually, or 640 football fields per day.  

The annual Statewide Land and Tree Study (SLATS) data shows an average of 95,000 hectares of native vegetation was cleared across the state every year for the past four years.  

Shockingly, over half of this is ‘unallocated’ or unexplained clearing that may or may not be legal1.  

The data shows that land clearing from agriculture continues to have a huge impact on the state’s biodiversity. Agricultural clearing of ‘woody vegetation’ has increased 15 per cent; and ‘non-woody vegetation’ clearing for agriculture has increased approximately 5 per cent between 2018 and 2020. 3095 hectares of sensitive and vulnerable regulated land was cleared in 2021 alone. 

Clearing of native vegetation, and the destruction of habitat associated with it is the single greatest threat to biodiversity in NSW. Clearing is generally irreversible because of the ongoing nature of land uses change. Clearing can directly impact, kill and displace native animals and plants. Over time, the effects of fragmentation and disturbance can lead to invasion by weeds and further deteriorate the condition and habitat values of the remnant vegetation2 

“The new figures show a regulatory framework that is unfit for purpose,” said Nature Conservation Council CEO, Jacqui Mumford. “Land clearing laws in NSW are unable to rein in runaway land clearing and urgently need reform.” 

Statements attributable to NCC Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Mumford 

“The land management framework is currently under review. The NSW Government has an opportunity to have a real impact on biodiversity loss by fixing the mistakes made in 2016 when the laws were loosened to allow an incomprehensible expansion of private land clearing across the state.” 

“After the government weakened land clearing laws in 2016, deforestation rates tripled and since then runaway land clearing continues apace.” 

“The existing Native Vegetation Code is an inappropriate regulatory tool for managing impacts on biodiversity in rural areas. It permits a completely unsustainable amount of clearing without any robust environmental assessment or approval requirements.  

“The scope of allowable vegetation clearing activities is too broad and open to misuse. Not only that, we have this huge amount of land clearing that can’t be explained. We don’t know whether or not this land clearing is allowable under even the current ineffective regulations3.” 

Statement ends 

Background 

(1) 54.6 per cent of non-woody vegetation clearing is unallocated & 6.4 per cent of woody vegetation clearing is unallocated. 

(2) https://www.soe.epa.nsw.gov.au/all-themes/land/native-vegetation#vegcover  

(3) Unallocated land clearing is defined as vegetation clearing for which the Department of Planning and Environment has not been able to identify a formal authorisation or is unable to presume authorised using visual cues in the imagery.  

Media contact: Anna Greer 

E: [email protected] Ph: (02) 7208 9482 

Note: NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford is available for comment on request 

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