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Byron Shire
January 29, 2022

‘Broad-scale land clearing’ bill could be introduced this week

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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

Chris Dobney

The Baird government’s controversial Biodiversity Conservation Bill, which opponents say would open the way to broad-scale land clearing and potentially see 300,000 hectares of koala habitat cleared in the northern rivers alone, could be introduced to parliament as early as this week.

If passed the bill would repeal multiple environmental protections including the Threatened Species Conservation Act, the Native Vegetation Act and the Nature Conservation Trust Act as well as sections of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Parties opposed to the bill are engaged in a last-ditch bid to divert it by demanding an inquiry – but so far lack the numbers in the upper house.

Brunswick Heads-based co-ordinator of Australians for Animals, Sue Arnold, told Echonetdaily, ‘there’s a major effort by parties opposed to persuade the Christian Democrats and Shooters to delay any vote on the bill until a parliamentary inquiry has been held.

‘This apparently is the only way it’s likely to be stopped, or at least held up,’ Ms Arnold said.

She added that the Christian Democrats were sympathetic ‘but are worried about significant opposition.’

‘But the Shooters don’t think the bill goes far enough,’ she added.

Australians for Animals Inc is urging concerned people to email NSW Christian Democrat MLC Paul Green requesting that the party supports a parliamentary inquiry.

‘We doubt that phone calls to Baird’s office will make a shred of difference but comments could be posted on the premier’s Facebook page,’ Ms Arnold said.

According to Australians for Animals, over 300,000 hectares of koala habitat on the far north coast could be cleared under the proposed legislation, which allows self assessment of land clearing and provides for cash payments in lieu of biodiversity offsets.

‘With more 1,000 species already threatened in NSW, if this bill goes through it will create an environmental disaster which will see the extinction of many species,’ Ms Arnold said.

‘If it goes through, the bill will threaten clean reliable water supplies; remove protections against erosion and salinity; put landmark trees and bushland in towns and suburbs at risk; release millions of tonnes of carbon pollution into the atmosphere; violate Australia’s ratification of international conventions, including the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention on Migratory Species; and put all threatened species at risk of extinction.

‘It will also reduce the role of the environment minister in important biodiversity decisions,’ she said.


Greens, EDO & WWF opposed

Ms Arnold’s views have been echoed by other groups including the NSW Greens, EDO (Environmental Defenders Office) and WWF.

The EDO has described it as ‘a serious retrograde step as it involves removing many of NSW’s long-held environmental protections.’

The Greens spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, said ‘The government promised they would introduce this biodiversity disaster in October, despite overwhelming opposition from scientists, land carers and the general community.

‘We are hoping that premier Mike Baird doesn’t give in to the Nationals yet again and introduce these laws that would devastate our environment. The fragile northern rivers would be especially vulnerable to broad-scale clearing.

‘If this bill passes, we will see a huge increase is land clearing, like we saw in Queensland when similar laws passed. It will be devastating for biodiversity, for wildlife and for our climate,’ Ms Faruqi said.

And last week WWF revealed the outcome of its own review of the legislation, that showed more than 2.2 million hectares of koala habitat across the state and as much as 84 per cent of the remaining bush in the Western Local Land Services Area could potentially be cleared.

Dr Francesca Andreoni, WWF-Australia forest and woodland conservation policy manager, said ‘This new report shows that under what the government is proposing over eight million hectares of bushland could be cleared and this would mean tree clearing would be once again out of control in New South Wales

‘Scientists have been saying that the government’s proposals will put wildlife on a fast track to extinction but the government really hasn’t been forthcoming in any analysis as to the implications of what they’re proposing,’ Ms Andreoni said.

‘Koalas are already a threatened species in New South Wales and so we’re really concerned about their survival in the long term. What the government is proposing could result in 2.2 million hectares of known or likely koala habitat to be bulldozed.

‘The premier needs to listen to the community, scrap the proposals and go back the drawing board,’ Ms Andreoni said.

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  1. it is about time these do gooders woke up that us landholders want to make our farms productive not ruin them we look after our native wildlife these laws have been in place for way to long

    • It’s about time these ‘landholders ‘ woke up,
      The efforts to increase productivity, such as land clearing ,has resulted in Australia being at the fore-front of species extinction ( generally before the species have even been described scientifically ). This state of affairs is enough to justify removing the decision making from the hands of unscrupulous profit takers , however, the fact that these bogans have destroyed the fertility of the soil and rendered huge and ever-increasing areas totally unproductive desert, more than justifies the people of Australia having oversight of these decisions AND demanding reparation for the past destruction of the national estate.


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