The North East Forest Alliance has condemned commitments by the Liberal-National Coalition today to repeal the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Native Vegetation Act 2003.
“The proposed changes would be an environmental disaster and setback conservation in NSW 25 years,” said NEFA spokesperson, Dailan Pugh.
“Giving local Councils the responsibility for regulating clearing of native vegetation through their Local Environment Plans means that native vegetation will only be afforded some protection where it is zoned for conservation (ie E2 and E3), and only from activities that require consent.
“The reality is that most rural councils have not identified, mapped and zoned high conservation value vegetation for protection in their Local Environment Plans, and where they have tried to the National Party has intervened to stop it. So the changes effectively mean no obstacles to clearing native vegetation in most areas.
“For example the draft Kyogle LEP proposed limiting environmental zones over private lands to cliffs, lakes or swamps and other lands unsuitable for agricultural and pastoral production with no consideration of ecosystem values. It proposed that extensive areas of rainforest of world heritage value inhabited by numerous threatened species would remained zoned for agriculture.
“Even this was too much for the National Party who intervened in September 2012 to stop north coast Councils from including environmental protection zones in their Local Environmental Plans, supposedly for 6 months while a review was undertaken.
“Because the review supported environmental zones, two and a half years later we are still waiting to see what the Nationals will allow north coast Councils to protect.
“The Native Vegetation Act is the only mechanism available to protect rainforest, oldgrowth forest, endangered ecological communities, core Koala habitat and other high conservation value vegetation in most areas because the National Party refuse to let Council’s protect it when they try to.
“Claims by National Party leader Troy Grant that getting rid of the Native Vegetation Act will put more protections in place across a region are rubbish.
“We are similarly alarmed by the proposal to reduce and remove regulation for most logging of private land in NSW. The current rules are already grossly inadequate and poorly enforced.
“In September 2013, in a logging operation undertaken by the Forestry Corporation on private property at Whian Whian (adjacent the Nightcap National Park) NEFA identified 76 threatened plants and 8 Koala high use trees which were meant to be protected by 20m buffers that had roading and logging within their buffers. Twenty seven of these were affected, with six killed and 1 injured, after we had identified their presence to the Environmental Protection Authority.
“We also found that rainforest mapped as the Federally Critically Endangered Lowland Rainforest of Subtropical Australia had been remapped as cleared land under the supervision of the EPA, so that a road could be constructed through it.
“Given their complicity, it is hardly surprising that one and a half years after we submitted detailed complaints we are still waiting for the EPA to respond.
“Neither the rainforest, core Koala habitat, or threatened species habitat on this property was proposed for protection in the Lismore Local Environmental Plan, and under the proposed changes such logging would not even require consent.
“We need to improve protection for high conservation value forests and woodlands, rather than remove the few constraints that exist. The claim by Mr. Grant that their reforms will end the site-by-site incremental erosion of biodiversity is plainly wrong ” Mr. Pugh said.
The final audit of Whian Whian is at http://www.nefa.org.au/whian_whian_audit