Monday, 17 October 2016

NEW SOUTH WALES BIODIVERSITY LAW CHANGES 2016

Here's some interesting information regarding the subject heading. From a friend of mine who is very concerned about this, as we all should be.

Imminent Changes to Biodiversity Laws in NSW
"I strongly urge the NSW Government to refrain from introducing any changes to the NSW 2003 Biodiversity Act.
The replacement of the NSW 2003 Biodiversity Act with the Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 will remove the effective laws which protect the remaining biodiversity in this state and introduce a legal framework for exceedingly detrimental degradation to occur. The new legislation has little regard for conservation and replaces key legislation with deliberately weakened laws enabling rafts of compromise.
Biodiversity has taken millions of years to develop yet the State Government is introducing laws to eradicate as much of it as possible. Pristine areas will be savaged as quickly as the time required for a bulldozer to ram a path through native vegetation thereby opening tree canopies, crushing the understorey and bringing weeds and the seeds of weeds on the rotating caterpillar tracks.
The concerns with the new legislation are many.
There are three major flaws in the current draft legislation.
  1. The codes allow broad scale clearing.
  2. The lack of mapping for areas of high biodiversity mapping where clearing is not allowed.
  3. The design of a $240 million fund for private land conservation requiring NSW taxpayers to compensate additional land clearing resulting from weakened existing clearing controls.
The new legislation fails to recognize or act upon the cumulative acts of land clearing and habitat degradation.
“Vulnerable ecological communities” are excluded from the definition of threatened species. This need to be rectified.
A key recommendation of Review Panel have been ignored. The Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel had recommended that land clearing involving a change of use should be assessed under planning laws. The draft legislation has ignored this recommendation and has given the responsibility for approving land clearing to Local Land Services which do not have the resources and expertise to carry out this function.
The new legislation introduces ‘Offsets’ which would allow rehabilitation or revegetation to be utilized as ‘set aside areas’ even though such vegetation would be ecologically inferior to or entirely different from the vegetation being cleared and may take decades to improve in quality. This therefore enhances overall land degradation, the loss of natural biodiversity and adds to the loss of threatened species and habitat.
The new legislation has offsets and then allows offsets on offsets as well as ministerial discretion to discount offsets. It goes further down the path of degradation as it allows developers to bypass offsets by simply making donations to a central fund if they have no offset or by rehabilitating mine sites, an action that should be the responsibility of the mining company. It even allows mining in areas hitherto regarded as unique, pristine and of outstanding biodiversity value. This is totally unacceptable. 
Even the role of the Environment Minister is to be diminished since under the new legislation’s regime the Minister for Primary Industries will deal with land clearing applications. As well, the Minister for Primary Industries will have significant discretion in applying the new laws. This is not good practice.
The draft legislation even goes so far as to specifically allow for the clearance of paddock trees. Advertising by NSW Farmers erroneously cites such trees as reservoirs for pest and weeds. In fact there is no evidence to support this. Yet the new legislation increases the number of codes under which these trees can be removed to five. 
Paddock trees are of great importance. They are indeed the remnants of the great forest cover of NSW. They provide shade for stock and pollen for bees. They provide lodgings and perches for birds. They provide roosts for owls and accommodation for bats and insects. Native species such as possums, sugar gliders and koalas also need them. Key threatened bird species such as the endangered Red Tailed Black Cockatoos. Even dead paddock trees are very important for nest sites. All the above mentioned immediately recognisable lifeforms are important parts of an ecosystem. 
Farmers reap significant rewards from paddock trees as they are important for soil conservation as their roots help to anchor the soil. They also have a positive influence on soil properties such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous levels. They provide a microclimate and shade for stock (Local Land Services 2014).


The new legislation will introduce self-assessment. Sadly the new codes proposed for NSW are similar to those which were implemented in Queensland under that state’s previous government and alarmingly resulted in tree clearance of 278,000 hectares in the year 2014, triple the land clearance in 2009. Also while the Local Land Services will have a degree of oversight, the Local Land Services will be unable to refuse code based clearing. 
The Environmental Outcomes Assessment Methodology (EOAM) will be replaced with self-assessable codes, exemptions and discretionary clearing. The new legislation contains no clear environmental baselines, aims or targets. It contains no bans on broad scale clearing, no mandatory soil, water or salinity assessments. 
Good legislation protecting biodiversity need to be have clear objectives, rules for like-for-like offsetting, the recognition that some vegetation cannot be offset (‘red flags’). The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 has none of that.
The Native Vegetation Act 2003 has an objective “to prevent broad-scale clearing unless it improves or maintains environmental outcomes”. The draft legislation has no equivalent objective.
Clearing of Endangered Ecological Communities (EECs) or threatened species habitat should not be permitted under self-assessable codes in the same way that heritage listed buildings cannot be approved for demolition or development by private certifiers. 
The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 is less stringent, less evidence based and less accountable. 
The new legislation does not guarantee conservation but makes it dependent on funding. Heavy reliance on political budgetary decisions (usually short-term) to achieve biodiversity gains rather the existing legislation’s protections to prevent continued biodiversity decline. 
Significantly the new legislation in no way addresses the largest threat to civilisation, rated as far greater than any possible war - that of climate change. Research has proven that land clearing reduces rainfall, increases temperatures, increases the duration of droughts and exacerbates El NiƱo events. 
The government has not provided any strong rationale for abolishing the Native Vegetation Act 2003. 
The new laws in no way strengthen or enhances biodiversity but simply accelerate the demise of what remains. There is no “maintain or improve” in the new legislation. Instead it is 18th Century conservation practice revisited from the same European Culture with the same narrow view point of the world arriving at the same end point: the greed and economic benefit of a few over the devastation and loss of biodiversity of wherever they go.
I therefore request the State Liberal Government redraft the law with net benefits to the environment and build upon and strengthen the Native Vegetation Act 2003. In doing so it would be acting responsibly to conserve the remaining biodiversity of NSW for all time and redress the wrongs and pressures wrought upon natural ecosystems across NSW by the modern civilized society."

So what do you think?



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