NSW biodiversity reforms 2016: issue 6 – Opportunities lost

Rewriting our biodiversity laws is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to halt our declining biodiversity while maintaining flexibility for landholders to manage their lands effectively.

In this last blog in our series analysing the NSW Government’s proposed biodiversity legislative and policy package, we look at what is missing from the reform package and outline ten recommendations for effective biodiversity laws. View all issues identified in this series here.

From our analysis, if you compare the laws that are being proposed with the laws that are being repealed, the outlook for native vegetation and biodiversity is not good. Clearing will increase. Offsets will expand to facilitate further clearing. Private conservation will flourish in some areas but struggle in others. Threatened species considerations can be traded off, and the new regime will not actually achieve the intended equity.

The reform package almost completely ignores climate change. For example, under the proposed new Biodiversity Assessment Method, there are five sections referring to the need for wind farms to be subject to an additional layer of assessment for biodiversity impacts, but no references at all to climate change. Also, while the Draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill lists ‘anthropogenic climate change’ as a ‘key threatening process’, there is only one brief reference to ‘global warming’, and that’s just to note that its impacts are not assessed under the regime. 

The proposed package carries over a number of deficiencies of current system:

  • There are exemptions and wide discretion for projects with the biggest environmental impacts
  • Vulnerable ecological communities are excluded from the definition of threatened species
  • Mining is still permitted in areas that supposedly offset previous losses and areas of outstanding biodiversity value.
  • Cumulative impacts on biodiversity are not addressed. 

So what should effective biodiversity laws do? 

Our recommendations
EDO NSW will be making a full and detailed submission on the reform package. We have collated a list of ten recommendations for making effective biodiversity laws.

To be effective, biodiversity laws should:

  1. Be designed to prevent extinction.

  2. Apply a ‘maintain or improve’ standard to all development.

  3. Address key threats such as broadscale land clearing of remnant vegetation and climate change.

  4. Establish a NSW Environment Commission or a Biodiversity Commissioner to provide advice and oversight.

  5. Mandate the use of leading practice scientifically robust assessment tools.

  6. Invest in private land conservation (the current reforms do this).

  7. Clearly require comprehensive data, monitoring, reporting on condition and trends (environmental accounts).

  8. Limit indirect offsetting.

  9. Commit to compliance and enforcement.

  10. Properly resource regional natural resource management bodies to work with landholders, have expertise to do assessments and make natural resource management plans that relate to clear targets. 

Find out how you can have your say about the reforms at our dedicated web page.


About the reforms

The NSW Government has released a draft law and policy package that represents a serious retrograde step for biodiversity, as it involves removing many of NSW’s long-held environmental protections.

Public submissions on the reforms close on Tuesday 28 June 2016. Find out how to get involved via the links below.

Links

 


Support our work

If you would like to help us to continue helping the community to protect the environment through law, you can donate online, become a friend of the EDO, check out our current appeal, or read more about how you can support our work.