Court rules land clearing code invalid - Labor calls on the NSW Government to fix these laws to save the environment

In Parliament | 09.03.18

The Berejiklian Government has suffered a humiliating blow with the Land and Environment Court today ruling that the State Government’s recently commenced land clearing code as invalid.

The Labor Opposition has called on Liberal-National Government to correct its land clearing laws and reverse proposals that, recent internal briefings revealed, will result in clearing increasing by up to 45 per cent and allow clearing of 99 per cent of the state’s koala habitat.

The code, which is part of recent changes to land clearing laws under so-called biodiversity conservation reforms, was to be signed off by Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton in concurrence with the Primary Industries Minister before the changes came into force on 25 August 2017.

However, Minister Upton failed to sign off until after they had commenced thereby invalidating the code. This will now require the government to remake the code and delay the implementation of land clearing laws across the state.

Labor has been highly critical of the biodiversity conservation laws and has joined scientists, farmers and environmentalists in highlighting the potential disaster that would befall the environment if the laws and land clearing code were passed. These fears were confirmed when the documents signed by the Environment Minister, drafted by her own department, warned of major environmental impact.

Any responsible minister should never have agreed to these laws on the basis of damage to water and soil quality, survival of threatened species, and rising emissions further accelerating dangerous climate change.

The briefing given to the Minister provided ample warning about the new land clearing code, including:

‘Less than 1% of identified koala habitat is NSW is protected from clearing’ 

‘Clearing under the Code may threaten the viability of certain threatened species at a property and local landscape scale’ 

‘The regulatory changes in the Code may further increase agricultural clearing in NSW by between 8% and 45% annually’ 

‘The main benefits are likely to be private benefits for large farming operations which broadscale clear under the Code’ 

The ruling shows the inability of Berejiklian Government ministers to work together, but also provides an opportunity to fix the damage that is being done under these land clearing laws.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe

“Today’s court loss speaks volumes for the mess this government is in when it comes to the environment, with an incompetent environment minister being railroaded by a mendacious agriculture minister intent on waging the ideological battles of the past. 

“The NSW Environment Minister abrogated her responsibility as the custodian of our natural assets and native wildlife. Future generations won’t thank her for failing to stand up to the retrograde vandals among her colleagues in the National Party. 

“However we now have an opportunity to fix these bad laws and reinstate the protections for native plants and animals that had been operating successfully for many years. 

“Today I am calling on the Premier to step in to bring all parties back to the table to redraft biodiversity laws that protect the precious water, soil, and wildlife of New South Wales.”