Land-Clearing Must Stop

The North East Forest Alliance is calling for an immediate halt to land-clearing in the light of the Natural Resources Commission’s damning review showing that land-clearing has skyrocketed, the promised off-setting is not being implemented, Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity Value are not being protected, the regulatory map has not been released, and that land-clearing represents a biodiversity risk across north-east NSW.  
“This follows a damning report from the Auditor General last year finding the regulation of land-clearing was fraught with problems of weak processes, poor assessments, inadequate protection, limited monitoring and poor enforcement, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
“We are in a climate and extinction emergency, clearing more vegetation and releasing its carbon into the atmosphere is pouring more fuel onto the fire, it has to stop.
“Last year over half of north-east NSW’s remnant native vegetation was burnt with the likely death of over 350 million native mammals, birds, lizards and frogs, including thousands of Koalas.
“Many species of plants and animals have had their populations decimated and are teetering on the brink of extinction, it is outrageous that the NSW Government is now allowing land-clearing and logging to push many populations over the brink.
“The Natural Resources Commission’s belatedly released July 2019 report on land-clearing  gives another damning assessment of NSW’s land-clearing free-for-all, it is no wonder the Government suppressed it for so long.
“The NRC reveals that from June 2018 until May 2019, 45,553 hectares was approved to be cleared under the Government’s new Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code, excluding “invasive native species”.
“This was a massive increase from the average of 2,700 hectares per year between 2006/07 and 2016/17.
“Though the NRC are scathing in their assessment that the Government is only setting aside in protected areas a fraction of the area approved to be cleared, when the Government promised they would protect 2-4 times more than was cleared.
“On the north coast the NRC reveal only one fifth the area of the land cleared is being set aside, and this drops down to less than a tenth on the New England Tablelands.
“As the NRC point out, in the second reading speech to Parliament for the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, the then Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair stated that ‘for each hectare cleared under the framework, it is estimated that between two and four hectares will be set aside and managed in perpetuity’ in order to conserve biodiversity values.
“The difference is even starker if the clearing of ‘invasive native species’ is accounted for as the Auditor General’s report last year identified that over 140,000 ha was also cleared under this dubious category.
“Because of the abject failure of the Government to live up to their promise to parliament, the NRC found there was a high biodiversity risk with nine of the eleven regions exceeding their biodiversity trigger thresholds.
“Land-clearing must stop, at least until there is a full assessment of the impacts of the bushfires on our imperilled wildlife, and the Environment Minister has fulfilled his responsibility to identify Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity Value, such as core Koala habitat, for protection.
“Land-clearing increases regional temperatures, reduces rainfalls and releases large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, we cannot afford for it to continue, let alone escalate. We need to be planting more trees to take up carbon, not bulldozing them.” Mr. Pugh said.

Land-clearing Must Stop
North East Forest Alliance