A serious backwards step for biodiversity laws

By EDO NSW Policy and Law Reform Director Rachel Walmsley

3 May 2016

The NSW Government’s proposed biodiversity legislative and policy package removes many of NSW’s long-held environmental protections, and represents a serious backward step for environmental law and policy in New South Wales.

As part of its biodiversity legislation reform process, the NSW Government has today publicly exhibited a new Biodiversity Conservation Bill, a Local Land Services Amendment Bill, and information about proposed land clearing codes. This new legislative package is designed to replace the Native Vegetation Act, Threatened Species Conservation Act, the Nature Conservation Trust Act and parts of the National Parks & Wildlife Act.

The proposed law and policy is a serious retrograde step, as it involves removing many of NSW’s long-held environmental protections. Our key areas of concern include greatly increased land clearing under self-assessable codes, no requirement to maintain or improve biodiversity, water quality, soil and salinity, an increased reliance on flexible (and indirect) offsets, wide discretion of consent authorities to apply the results of the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM), reduced public transparency, and unclear responsibility for who will actually do any compliance and enforcement.

The resourcing and expertise of Local Land Services to administer native vegetation regulation is also in question. Not only are legal protections significantly weakened, but any potential biodiversity gains are dependent on funding decisions and not guaranteed in legislation.

The package will be on public exhibition for the next eight weeks, and submissions close on Tuesday 28 June 2016. During this time community members are able to make submissions. We will be publishing a preliminary analysis of the draft Bill shortly. We’ll also be running workshops and seminars across NSW in June and providing resources to help communities have their say. If you’re interested in making a submission and getting involved, please sign up to our weekly eBulletin.

Our resources and updates will feature on our web page dedicated to the reforms.

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