True extent of land clearing covered up by state government
REVELATIONS that the true extent of land clearing is at least six times greater than reported by the NSW Government highlights the need for stronger land-clearing protections, according to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
"These revelations show the government has been mismanaging and misreporting clearing in NSW for years," said Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski.
"How we trust them to manage the biggest reform of conservation laws in a generation if they can't even get their basics measurements right. The worst thing they can do now is relax import regulations, especially in the face of the extinction and climate crisis."
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported research by ANU Associate Professor Philip Gibbons who has found an average of over 81,000 hectares of native vegetation has been cleared each year between 2007 and 2011, six times more than the 12,500 hectares reported by the government.
The NSW Government released its draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill last week.
"Premier Baird has been re-writing our conservation laws while the community has had no idea of the true scale of the tree clearing crisis facing NSW," Ms Smolski said.
"Land clearing is the number-one factor pushing many animals like the koala to the brink of extinction. Even regrowth habitat can be vitally important in such a heavily cleared landscape as we have in much of NSW.
"The question today is whether Premier Baird caves into pressure from the Nationals and developers and allows further unsustainable clearing of bushland or whether he will stand up to protect our wildlife, healthy soils and pure water supplies."10
Ms Smolski said an effective land clearing management system must:
- Ensure no return to broad-scale land clearing by retaining clearing controls;
- Protect and enhance the health and variety of our wildlife, protect water supplies and ensure healthy soils and productive farmlands;
- Support farmers who protect wildlife, healthy soils and pure water supplies in return for maintaining strong vegetation laws;
- Identify and rule out clearing bushland that is critical as habitat for threatened wildlife;
- Rule out offset schemes that allow developers to destroy wildlife habitat in exchange for cash or dissimilar types of habitat;
- Use tree-clearing controls to maximize the amount of carbon pollution captured and retained by native bushland; and
- Require comprehensive and accurate mapping of the state's 1500 vegetation communities so we know exactly where they are and can protect them properly.