The new biodiversity, land clearing and vegetation laws – what next?

One of the final acts of NSW Parliament in 2016 was to radically alter our long-standing environmental laws. The new laws take a backwards step in environmental protection in NSW. Now that these laws are passed, what’s next?

By EDO NSW Policy and Law Reform Director Rachel Walmsley

6 December 2016

Throughout 2016, we helped communities, farmers and Landcare groups understand and engage in the NSW Government’s biodiversity and land clearing law reforms. We provided the government with extensive evidence-based analysis showing that the laws represent a backward step in environmental protection in NSW. 

The new laws, the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Local Land Services Amendment Act, were passed by the NSW Parliament on 17 November 2016. 

Unfortunately, these new laws fail to address much-needed reforms – and, worse, they remove many important environmental protections. For example, when the new laws come into force, NSW will no longer have a ban on broadscale clearing of native vegetation. 

But it is not over yet. Even though the new laws have been passed, a huge amount of detail is still to be decided

So there is still an opportunity to improve these laws before they come into force in July 2017. 

EDO NSW is committed to using our expertise to maximise biodiversity outcomes under the new laws. Here are 8 things we’ll do in the first half of 2017:

  1. Make recommendations for the new Biodiversity Conservation Regulation. The detail in the regulations is crucial – this is where the definition of biodiversity values may be expanded, and where the meaning of ‘serious and irreversible impacts’ will be identified.

  2. Recommend clauses for Local Land Services Regulations. This is where we hope to insert some reasonable limitations into the new land clearing codes to prevent a return to broadscale clearing.

  3. Act on suspected illegal clearing reported to us by concerned community members via our environmental law advice line.

  4. Work with the government on testing the new Biodiversity Assessment Method. The assessment method and tools such as the ‘credit calculator’ are very technical and detailed, but it is essential to engage our independent experts, as the final method will underpin the new expanded offset market. This work will include EDO NSW and our experts observing field trials.

  5. Make recommendations for the new State Environmental Planning Policy. This policy will be important in deciding the fate of urban vegetation and biodiversity.

  6. Scrutinise the development of the new Regulatory Map that will define what vegetation will be regulated, and what will be unregulated. Accurate mapping is essential to underpin the new regime, and to ensure unlawfully cleared areas do not simply become unregulated.

  7. Provide advice to community members or groups who want to make public submissions on the new regulations, codes and policies.

  8. Hold community workshops and update our online fact sheets when all the details are settled to explain the new laws, and the role that communities can play in protecting our biodiversity.  

Although the new biodiversity and land clearing laws have been passed, all is not lost. EDO NSW will keep working to ensure we get the best environmental outcomes possible under the new laws.

You can help by making a tax deductible donation to our work today.

See our past work on the biodiversity reform package.