Letter to 73 NSW-based scientists urging the Baird Government to withdraw proposed land clearing laws

In Parliament | 05.10.16


I received a letter and public statement from 73 NSW-based scientists specialising in fields across biodiversity conservation and environmental and social sciences, urging the Baird Government to withdraw the so-called "Biodiversity Conservation" laws. This is my response. 

Dr Neil Perry
School of Business
Western Sydney University


Dear Dr Perry

Thank you for your letter regarding the public statement of 73 NSW-based scientists and social scientists about the very significant changes to biodiversity protection laws currently proposed by the Baird Government. I share your concerns and I was pleased to see this strong public statement.

NSW Labor is proud of its history on environmental protection. We are particularly proud of our history in implementing the Native Vegetation Act and the Threatened Species Act, which have been vital to protecting the beautiful environment and wildlife of NSW.

Evidence shows that since these laws were implemented broad-scale land clearing has dropped from 80,000 to 1,000 hectares per year, an 88% reduction. Animal deaths decreased by an estimated 14%, or 53,000 fewer deaths each year, and the laws also helped Australia meet its commitments on much-needed carbon emissions reductions.

Premier Baird and his Liberal and National Party colleagues have now revealed their plans to destroy this environmental legacy and take biodiversity in NSW backwards. The Baird Government’s proposed Biodiversity Conservation Act is a disaster for environmental protection and conservation in NSW.

Rather than enhancing existing environmental and biodiversity legislation, the Baird Government is intent on creating a system that will wreak havoc over the protection of our natural environment and enable broad-scale land clearing and mass biodiversity destruction across the state.

The repeal of the Carr Labor Government’s Native Vegetation Act 2003 is of particular concern. Analysis by peak conservation bodies, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservation Council have concluded that the Baird Government’s proposals would:

  • Add extinction pressures to the state’s 1,000 already threatened species;
  • Threaten clean, reliable water supplies and degrade fertile farmlands through erosion and salinity;
  • Put landmark trees and bushland in towns and suburbs at greater risk of land clearing; and
  • Limit efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

When similar protections were revoked in Queensland, there was a near doubling of remnant vegetation clearing between 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 and a drastic increase in carbon emissions.

Labor has no objection to the formation of a single Biodiversity Conservation Act; however, we will not tolerate the dilution and removal of critical environmental and biodiversity protections that underpin existing legislation. Labor will not support policies that weaken environmental laws.

We have called for the proposed laws to be abandoned.

NSW Labor will ensure that our legislative and regulatory regime provides robust protections for our natural environment.

If the final bill presented by the NSW Government does not address our concerns we will oppose it.

Yours sincerely

Penny Sharpe MLC
Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage
5 October 2016