New native vegetation laws attract criticism

THE NSW Government's proposed native vegetation law changes continue to attract criticism with a leading scientific advisor resigning from the government's four person Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel.

Professor Hugh Possingham, a Queensland University conservation biologist and member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, had been providing advice to the government as a member of the panel since December 2014.

Professor Possingham , who had originally been very positive about the proposed legislation, believes that the introduction of clearing codes was inconsistent with the original panel report that the government had endorsed.

He believes that the legislation in its current form will lead to broad scale land clearing and to the degradation of soil, water and biodiversity.

Under the current legislation, which offers much greater protection than the government's new legislation will provide, NSW loses around 20,000 hectares of native vegetation a year through land clearing. The cumulative impact year after year even at this rate is concerning. It will be much worse if rates accelerate as many fear will happen with the new laws.

When native vegetation is cleared, particularly on a broad scale, the habitat that native species rely on for their survival is reduced. Without the appropriate habitat, many animals perish. Habitat loss is why there are an increasing number of native species on the threatened species list and why so many species are threatened with extinction.

The koala is one example of a species under threat largely because of habitat loss. Its threatened state in NSW, Queensland and the ACT was recognised by the Federal Government which listed it as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Kate Smolski, CEO of the NSW Nature Conservation Council, said that Premier Baird had used the Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel, of which Professor Possingham was a member, to give legitimacy to the vegetation change.

"These laws have very little to do with biodiversity conservation and everything to do with fast tracking land clearing and property development," she said.

The new vegetation laws go before parliament within a few days.

Leonie Blain, Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition

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