Upper House MP and former Nationals candidate for the seat of Ballina, Ben Franklin, is sticking to his party’s stance on a controversial ‘koala-killing’ Bill before parliament.
Currently awaiting a final vote in the NSW Upper House, the Bill represents a major reversal of the government’s previous support for koala protection – a back flip motivated by internal conflicts within the Liberal-National Coalition.
In an urgency motion passed unanimously at last Thursday’s Byron Shire Council meeting, all councillors noted their ‘strong objection’ to the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, which allows for large-scale clearing of bushland by farmers and industry.
Councillor Michael Lyon (Independent), who moved the motion said, ‘What you’re going to see is a removal of protections for koala habitat, and a continuation of the destructive activities you’ve seen before’.
‘It is inconsistent with the findings of the NSW audit office and the Upper House inquiry into koala populations and habitat’.
MLC Ben Franklin’s koala killer vote
But locally based Nationals MLC Ben Franklin said he would be voting for the Bill.
Mr Franklin told The Echo the Local Land Services Act (the LLS Act) and associated codes already contained ‘robust protections for koalas…’
‘The LLS Act and the land management framework totally prevents harm to threatened species habitat. It acts as a complete stop point.
‘This included the fact that all activities under the LLS Act were subject to penalty offences under the Biodiversity Act.
‘Division 1 (2.4) of the Biodiversity Conservation Act makes it clear that harming the habitat of a threatened species subjects that person to either $1.65 million fine, or imprisonment for two years, or both,’ Mr Franklin said.
‘This includes any activity by farmers.
‘These protections are arguably much higher than any protection for koalas afforded by the planning system, which only aims to mitigate habitat destruction’.
Cr Lyon added that the bill had particular consequences for the Byron Shire, because it undermined the protections offered by E-zones – an environmental zoning that forms a key part of the Shire’s ecological protection policy framework.
‘It allows certain acts within E-zones… and freezes koala habitat plans of management in time.
‘Our identified core koala habitat is under threat.’
The motion seeks support from the local member for Ballina, Tamara Smith to make ‘urgent representations to the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, the Minister for Energy and the Environment, Matthew Kean and members of the NSW Parliament on behalf of Council about the potential impact that the Bill will have on our biodiversity’.