FACING REVOLT: NSW Premier Mike Baird has lost the support of environmental groups for the government’s planned biodiversity reforms.
FACING REVOLT: NSW Premier Mike Baird has lost the support of environmental groups for the government’s planned biodiversity reforms. Trevor Veale

Green groups pull out of biodiversity reform process

THE Baird Government's biodiversity law reform agenda has suffered a major setback with the state's peak conservation groups withdrawing from top-level stakeholder consultations.

The groups have walked away from talks with the Office of Environment and Heritage, which is drafting the new laws, and are now seeking direct talks with the ministers for environment, planning and primary industries.

"We have provided detailed analysis and constructive feedback to help develop a conservation law that addresses the increasing threats to wildlife, soils and climate but it is now clear that the government is on a course to pursue development at high environmental cost," the groups said in a joint statement.

"It has become clear that the broad outcomes of this process are being predetermined by a minority of rural interests, and the proposed Biodiversity Conservation Act will fail to secure adequate protections for our wildlife, water and soils. It will also increase climate-change risks by permitting the resumption of broadscale land clearing.

"We therefore refuse to legitimise a wind back of protections for nature by participating in the current stakeholder consultations any further."

The Baird Government plans to repeal the Native Vegetation Act and the Threatened Species Conservation Act and introduce a new conservation law this year.

The groups' analysis of the government's proposals has concluded they would:

  • Add extinction pressures to the state's 1000 threatened species;
  • Threaten clean, reliable water supplies and degrade fertile farmlands through erosion and salinity;
  • Put landmark trees and bushland in towns and suburbs at greater risk;
  • Expand a flawed offsets scheme to try to recreate bushland cleared under the new laws in order to legitimise inappropriate development.

"Premier Mike Baird is putting our water, soils and climate at risk, and pushing our native animals to extinction with laws that will fast-track bushland destruction across NSW," NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

"Before the election, Premier Baird committed to 'enhancing the state's biodiversity to benefit current and future generations'.

"Now he is buckling to the demands of big agribusiness and developers who want weaker nature protection laws to accelerate habitat destruction.

"This legislation does not protect nature, it facilitates development."

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