Time to dump land clearing laws that will drive threatened species like koalas to extinction

In Parliament | 07.09.18

On Threatened Species Day the NSW Labor Opposition is calling on the Berejiklian Government to withdraw their so-called biodiversity laws that stripped away environmental protections for native vegetation after a new report has revealed clearing has nearly tripled after the new laws were introduced.

A report released by WWF and the NSW Nature Conservation Council has found via satellite imaging that land clearing in north-central NSW has skyrocketed in areas around Moree and Collarenebri. Key findings include:

  • Clearing has almost tripled, with 8,194 ha was cleared in 2017-18, up from 2,845ha in 2016-17.
  • 14ha of koala habitat was bulldozed each day in 2017-18 (5,246ha habitat destroyed) – the koala is listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW.
  • 19ha of Painted Honeyeater habitat was bulldozed each day in 2017-18 (6,942ha of habitat destroyed) – the Painted Honeyeater is listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW.
  • Habitat for 247 native species may have been destroyed in 2017-18.

These results are just from one portion of the state. On the ground reports suggest that the acceleration in clearing is happening across NSW.

The government’s own figures in the NSW Report on Native Vegetation 2014-2016 showed that clearing of trees and vegetation increased by 721% from 2013-14 to 2015-16 as the government pushed through the new laws.

With more than 1,000 species listed as threatened across NSW, including koalas, powerful owls, painted honeyeaters, skinks, geckos and woodland herbs such as the slender darling pea, the current laws are becoming responsible for habitat loss that risks driving threatened species to extinction. Without immediate action NSW is now hurtling towards an extinction crisis.

When the Government repealed the environmental protections in the previous Native Vegetation Act and introduced its Biodiversity Conservation Act, experts warned the consequences would be dire for wildlife habitat – now the numbers are in, it is clear the Berejiklian Government’s legacy will be catastrophic for threatened species.

If elected in 2019 Labor will replace the current biodiversity laws with genuine protections for native vegetation and a focus on halting biodiversity loss.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe MLC

“The figures tell the story: these laws are about the clearing and deforestation of NSW, and they do not and will not protect threatened species and address critical biodiversity loss.”

“Our koalas, our painted honeyeaters and other native animals and plants will not survive this level of clearing. They are at risk of extinction.”

“As the chainsaws and bulldozers let rip across NSW, Labor will not sit by as NSW tips towards catastrophic biodiversity loss. We will repeal these laws and replace them with laws designed to save threatened species, not exterminate them.”