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Byron Shire
January 18, 2022

Illegal land clearing rampant, new figures show

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Proposed changes to nature conservation laws would lead to increased land clearing, environmentalists have warned. Photo Lyn Orrego, NEFA
Proposed changes to nature conservation laws would lead to increased land clearing, environmentalists have warned. Photo Lyn Orrego, NEFA

Almost 60 per cent of all the land clearing that occurred in NSW over a three-year period was ‘unexplained’, latest government figures reveal.

The NSW Report on Native Vegetation 2013–2014, released by the Office of Environment and Heritage, shows 13,500ha of woody vegetation cleared for crops, pastures or thinning over the three years to 2013 was ‘unexplained’, and probably illegal.

The figures also showed ‘unexplained’ clearing occurred on more than 4,400 properties, yet government agencies launched and completed only 818 compliance and enforcement actions in the same period.

‘This report shows that the Baird government is soft on illegal land clearing,’ claimed Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski.

‘We fear it is just a glimpse of what’s to come if the government introduces its new land-clearing laws with weaker environmental protections to parliament later this year.

‘These figures show that the Baird government is not giving Local Land Services and other agencies the resources they need to monitor land clearing and to enforce the laws that are supposed to protect our soils, water resources and wildlife habitat.

‘The area of woodland and wildlife habitat that has been illegally cleared is more than twice the size of Sydney ­Harbour, and would have provided habitat for thousands of native mammals.

‘We in NSW are in the middle of an extinction crisis – we cannot afford to keep losing wildlife habitat at this rate or we will lose species such as the koala forever. It’s a disgrace that the government continues to allow this to happen.’

Minister replies

In reply, NSW environment minister Mark Speakman said, ‘The NSW Native Vegetation Report 2013–2014 is an operational document that outlines the state of regulation and protection of native vegetation in NSW during the 2013–2014 financial year, and the extent of native vegetation during 2011–13 (using satellite data).

‘OEH staff have been working on high-priority biodiversity conservation and land-management reforms. The reforms took precedence over the report.

‘The proposed biodiversity conservation and land-management reforms aim to improve monitoring of land-clearing. As part of these reforms, the government has invested in precise satellite imagery that will provide more regular and detailed knowledge of changes in vegetation, and therefore facilitate more effective compliance and enforcement activity.’

* See the full report at http://bit.ly/2aWZzRO.


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