Environmental group, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA), has condemned an announcement by NSW Liberals and Nationals government ministers Barilaro, Stokes and Kean that they have made a deal on koala protection.
The ABC reports that under the deal, rural areas will be ‘removed from the new State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP), and come under a new code that is yet to be developed’.
‘It means land zoned for farming or forestry will not be subject to the land clearing rules that are designed to protect koala habitat.
‘The government is yet to come to an agreement on what rules will apply to the north coast, where some of the most important koala populations in the state live’.
NEFA spokesperson, Dailan Pugh, says the new plan will ‘take away Council’s ability to require consent for logging, as well as their ability to create environmental zones’.
He says, ‘Over 60 per cent of koalas occur on private lands, and now the vast majority of their habitat will be available for clearing and logging, without any mapping of core koala habitat and no requirements to look for koalas.
‘This time they will focus on removing koala protections through the rewriting of State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) and ministerial directions to avoid having to get their changes approved by the NSW Upper House. They refuse to wait for the outcome of the current Upper House inquiry into these measures.
‘Minister Stokes’ pretence that this is somehow a big step forward for the protection of koalas is a big lie.
‘The Koala SEPP will now only apply to a limited number of Development Applications.
‘Logging and clearing will in future be allowed in any core koala habitat identified in a Koala Plan of Management (KPoM). The focus of the changes are to over-ride decades of Councils’ efforts in protecting private lands in their shires from clearing and logging.
‘Council’s rights to prohibit or require consent for logging through zoning or Tree Preservation Orders will be removed, instead logging will be allowed across all existing environmental zones. North coast Councils’ zoning currently prohibits logging of 167,000ha, and requires development consent for logging over 600,000 hectares, all of which will go.
‘Council’s rights to rezone rural land to an environmental zone, or even to vary the rural zoning, will be removed, with only the Planning Minister allowed to do such rezonings in future. This is specifically aimed at stopping core koala habitat being included in environmental zones, though affects all high conservation value vegetation.’
Meanwhile, industry lobby group NSW Farmers say they are ‘concerned by a lack of consultation with landholders around new koala regulations and what they will mean for farmers’.
To highlight the need for local Tweed MP Geoff Provest (Nationals) to push back against the new state koala SEPP a peaceful gathering is planned in Knox Park, Murwillumbah on Saturday, 20 March from 10 till 11am as part of the #SaveOurKoalas National Day of Action.
‘Never before has it been so urgent for those living in the Northern Rivers and across NSW to come together to raise the pressing plight of our endangered NSW koalas. If we want a NSW future to include our precious and iconic koalas, we must demonstrate a strong, united and unwavering pubic presence and pressure. Everyone, regardless of age or political views has an important role to play,’ said Scott Sledge, president of the Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG).