‘Koala war’ comes to an end
The NSW Government has reached an agreement on the details of its controversial koala policy that threatened to fracture the Coalition.
Ministers agreed on changes to the policy and the Local Land Service Act on Tuesday night.
Acting Deputy Premier Paul Toole, who stepped into the role after John Barilaro announced he was taking personal leave, said the new agreement would separate land management and private native forestry from the State Environmental Planning Policy so farmers could continue their operations "without getting weighed down in green tape".
"Farmers face enough uncertainty with seasonal conditions and volatile markets - it is critical they have certainty around rules that apply to their farming practices as they bounce back from bushfires and drought," Mr Toole said.
The old SEPP was revoked on March 1, and the proposed updated guidelines would have forced landowners to provide more evidence that planned developments would not impact koala habitats.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the Government had "hit the mark".
"Last night's resolution demonstrates that there are often important robust and passionate discussions as part of the decision-making process," he said.
"The koala is an iconic Australian animal and saving it from extinction in the wild is the goal of this policy."
As part of the amendments the Berejiklian Government has agreed to help rescue the dwindling koala population by keeping 123 tree species that have been scientifically proven to be critical to koala survival - both for habitat and a source of food.
The government is also looking to redefine the definition of 'core koala habitat'.
Other measures include:
- Decoupling the Private Native Forestry and the Land Management Codes within the Local Land Services Act 2013 from the Koala SEPP on the basis robust protections already exist.
- Strengthening landholder rights when a local council creates a Koala Plan of Management by extending minimum exhibition time frames, introducing clear dispute pathways for landholders and ensuring they can access ecologists or use their own to appeal or object to what a council has put forward.
- Removing the pink Development Application Map in favour of returning to an on-the-ground survey method.
- Refining the blue Site Investigation Map and making it available to local councils.
Last month NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian emerged victorious after Mr Barilaro effectively threatened to take his party to the crossbench over controversial planning legislation.
Mr Barilaro threatened that his party would not support government legislation, would boycott joint party room meetings and would move to the crossbench over amendments to the SEPP.
Under the proposed amendments, land owners would have been responsible for the koalas on their land, which could have impacted how they developed it, and the Nationals had reportedly been bombarded with calls from residents who were against it.
Government sources reportedly claimed the Deputy Premier tried to make several demands, including to discuss the legislation at a cabinet meeting but none were accepted.
Originally published as 'Koala war' comes to an end