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Byron Shire
July 1, 2022

Rethink on environmental powers transfer is encouraging

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Pepe Clarke, CEO, Nature Conservation Council of NSW

Reports that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has stepped back from a COAG proposal to hand federal environmental powers to the states are encouraging, but must be matched by a commitment to rule out similar proposals in future.

This ill-conceived proposal would have left Australia with a threadbare patchwork of inconsistent and ineffective environmental protections.

It is encouraging to see that common sense may have prevailed for the time being, but we will be seeking a commitment from government to categorically rule out similar moves in future.

The federal government should now act to remove the provisions of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act that would still enable such a transfer to occur.

This is the only way the community can be confident that this ill-considered and dangerous proposal will not be resurrected.

There is very broad support in the community for the Commonwealth to retain these powers.

Polling by Lonergan Research released last month found that 85 per cent of Australians believed the federal government should be able to block or make changes to major projects that could damage the environment.

Now, more than ever, we need the federal government to safeguard our state’s environment from the excesses of state-sponsored development.

It’s extraordinary that Premier O’Farrell claimed that he was ready to sign an agreement with the Commonwealth, guaranteeing that federal environmental standards would be maintained.

In fact, his government is currently proposing fundamental changes to the NSW planning system that will allow most developments to be approved without full environmental assessment or any public consultation.

Next week, the NSW Planning Assessment Commission will consider a proposal for the state-owned Cobbora coal mine, which will result in the destruction of nearly 2,000 hectares of native bushland.

Destructive developments like these vividly illustrate the risks for our environment if the federal government were to walk away from its environmental responsibilities.


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