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Starting gun fires to rein-in runaway clearing of bushland in NSW

24th August 2023 

Two key reports tabled in the NSW parliament today open a critical window of opportunity to reverse environmental decline, an alliance of key conservation groups has said today.  

Lines attributable to NCC acting CEO Brad Smith.  

“The expert review is blunt: ‘biodiversity is not being conserved’ in our state. 

“Current laws allow the web of life to be picked apart, which will have catastrophic consequences for future generations ability to not only see koalas in the wild, but to grow food and enjoy clean water. 

“This review represents the single most significant opportunity we’ve seen to fix environmental laws in over a decade” 

“Stopping runaway land clearing is one of the easiest, cheapest and most immediate actions that can be taken to reduce emissions and ensure we meet our 2030 climate goals.” 

The runaway land clearing we’ve seen since the former government reversed the Carr era land reforms seen rates of land clearing triple, with 95,000 ha of land and 50 million trees being cleared every year in NSW alone. It is now the greatest threats to biodiversity in NSW. 

“Land clearing also generates 40 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2022. That’s 10% of Australia’s total CO2 emissions or the more than emissions than all of Sydney. 

The expert panel’s 58 recommendations define a pathway for the government to ensure our children can experience the same natural wonders we are privileged to enjoy.  

However, any response needs to match the level of the crisis the Minns government has inherited, and must include:  

1 – Repeal laws which allow landholders to clear bushland with no approval or external assessment. 

“The review finds that 83% of all land clearing was for agriculture, which is why it is essential that we return to a scheme more like the previous Labor government’s vegetation laws. 

“It's absurd that commercial agribusiness operators can simply tick a box and decide that there is nothing of environmental significance in an area they want to clear.”   

“There are no other scenarios in which a citizen of NSW can simply give themselves regulatory approval for land use change and development.  

2 – Introduce legislation that contains ‘red line’ provisions for biodiversity offsets, in order to stop the destruction of areas of ecological importance across individual projects, state significant developments, state significant infrastructure, and regional plans. 

Right now the NSW offset scheme enables development consent to be granted approvals in almost every situation.  

But no matter how many saplings you plant or ‘comparable areas’ you find,  there are some areas that are simply too important to destroy. We're talking about ecosystems that took hundreds or even thousands of years to grow being destroyed”.  

We were happy to see several recommendations in today’s report would go a long way to achieving this outcome.  

We will be seeking assurances from the government that however they choose to enact these changes, areas of ecological significance can no longer be destroyed by developers. 

Quotes attributable to Nathaniel Pelle, Business and Nature Lead at the Australian Conservation Foundation: 

Reversing broadscale land clearing in NSW and restoring damaged landscapes are the most impactful and economically efficient environmental measures the government could take. Not only is it a critical step in preventing the further extinction of native wildlife but it will protect the essential ecosystems services like freshwater, erosion control, and pollination that significant sectors of the NSW economy directly depend upon. 

The current trend of environmental degradation in NSW, coupled with poor data, represents a growing financial risk to agricultural producers, investors, and the people of NSW as global consumer and financial markets increasingly demand evidence that the products they are buying and investing in are not contributing to nature destruction. 

The Henry review recommendations to commit to reversing nature destruction and invest in information systems to monitor progress provided a once in a lifetime opportunity for the NSW government to reset the relationship between nature and the economy. There isn't a dollar traded in the NSW economy that isn't ultimately dependent on nature and every dollar invested in protecting and restoring ecosystems comes back to us many times over. 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard 

E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 

Note: Acting NCC CEO Brad Smith is available for comment on request  

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