North coast’s biodiversity hotspots ‘again under threat’

The fight to protect the north coast’s world-renowned biodiversity is on again with renewed pressure to stop councils establishing environmental zones (e-zones).

Byron Shire Council has its proposed Environmental Zones now on exhibition, and the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is calling on Ballina, Byron and Tweed shire councils to ‘remain resolute in the face of yet another concerted effort’ to scrap them by the state’s farmer’s lobby and the National Party.

‘Environmental Zones (E zones) are the only way that local communities can over-ride the state government’s new draconian land clearing laws, apply reasonable constraints on logging, and limit inappropriate developments in our most important remnant vegetation’,  NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

‘The far north coast has been identified as both a national and international Biodiversity Hotspot because of its high number of endemic species and the threats of excessive land clearing,’ he said.

‘Our predecessors cleared most of the 75,000-hectare Big Scrub, Australia’s largest area of lowland subtropical rainforest. Even with regeneration there is less than 1,000ha left today.

‘A similar fate befell many of the forests in the Richmond, Tweed and Brunswick valleys, giving the region the ignominy of having the most species threatened with extinction in NSW.

‘Back in 2012 NSW Farmers and the National Party were successful in stopping the Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Kyogle and Lismore councils from proceeding with their proposed Environmental Zones and had them excised from the council’s Local Environmental Plans as Deferred Areas.

‘In 2015 new rules were introduced just for the far north coast in an attempt to restrict council’s ability to implement Environmental Zones.

‘Since then Kyogle and Lismore Councils have given-up and removed all Environmental Zones from their Local Environment Plans.

‘Now that Byron Council has its proposed Environmental Zones on exhibition NSW Farmers are pushing to have E-zones prohibited, and the Department of Planning is once again threatening to intervene’, (The Land, 9 November 2017).

‘North Coast councils have had environmental zones since the late 1980s. For the past 30 years they have been effective in protecting many important places.

‘We need to restore protection to these areas and extend it to other high environmental value vegetation, such as rainforest, old-growth forest, endangered ecological communities, important habitat for Koalas and other threatened species, wetlands and vegetation on stream banks.

‘The National Party has boasted that their new rules will allow a fourfold increase in land clearing. The Government’s mapping of the limited lands to be excluded from clearing leaves most of the remnant high environmental value vegetation left on the far north-coast at risk.

‘Australia is second out of the top seven countries worldwide responsible for 60% of the world’s biodiversity loss between 1996 and 2008, which has been primarily attributed to landclearing in Queensland and NSW.

‘As shown at Whian Whian in 2013 and recently at Limpinwood, regulation of logging has taken a similar open slather approach due to few constraints and lax regulation by the EPA.

‘Both Ballina and Tweed councils have asked the state government to give them a consent role in forestry in an attempt to better protect koalas and other threatened species. The government refused their requests. It is only E-zones that give councils this power.

‘We need E-zones to protect our important areas from this government’s environmental vandalism. We can’t let the NSW Farmers get rid of our last line of defence’ Mr Pugh said.

He said a leaked NSW Cabinet document shows company profits, not wildlife conservation, was the prime motivation behind the new biodiversity laws the Coalition introduced in NSW last November.



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