I view with considerable concern many of the changes that are proposed in the draft legislation. Rather than taking the opportunity to focus upon our poor record and improve standards of biodiversity conservation the main thrust is more about setting economic considerations above those that would reduce current levels of biodiversity loss. ESD is not about facilitating development but more about ensuring that a correct balance is reached within environmental planning processes. ESD should not be a major aim of Biodiversity Conservation Legislation.
My specific concerns include:
1 Significant biodiversity loss continues under current legislation that has now been in place for some 12 years. To be effective this legislation and its regulations need to be stronger - the legislation proposed is not and it is reasonable to assume that regulations will follow this lead.
2 The focus is upon conflict between development and biodiversity and is more appropriate for environmental planning not biodiversity conservation.
3 . Monitoring and evaluation must be effective and on changes to biodiversity levels, not upon effective implementation of the legislation.
4. Climate change is not considered. The need for greater connectivity and provision of effective refugia are even more essential to meet the projections of a future climate effected NSW.
5. This is terrestrial biodiversity legislation - the opportunity to consider aquatic systems has been lost.
6. Focus is upon 'the last of the least' (25% of NSW biodiversity), not the 'best of the rest' the other 75% - is it not better to work on species and systems before they become threatened. The current proposed legislation will drive this % relativity in the wrong direction.
7 Biodiversity offsets measures do not currently achieve what they are set out to do. The conditions surrounding their current use should therefore be considerably strengthened rather than streamlined or weakened,. Multipliers must be applied to like for like offsets. Offsets must be shown to be available before financial obligations are entered into. While social benefits may be considered financial benefits should not be the criteria for weakening offset standards.
8. Relaxation of land clearing controls will exacerbate biodiversity loss especially as clearing approvals will be based upon remote assessment of the extent of existing vegetation systems rather than the distribution and population of fauna species and threatened floral species contained. It is essential that key threatening processes especially where this includes land clearing are assessed as part of the decision making process
At the end of the 20th century land clearing in NSW and Qld alone ensured that Australia was one of the largest land clearing nations in the world. The proposed NSW relaxation and that already in place in Qld will ensure that Australia will regain this unfortunate preeminence.
The complaint by land managers that they receive little benefit from managing biodiversity on behalf of the wider community is a reasonable one. Greater effort is required to develop training, accreditation and financial incentives for effective managers of biodiversity on private lands than is currently the case.
9. Paddock trees have been widely shown to be significant habitats and refuges for many species and should not be removed for agricultural convenience.
10. Travelling stock routes are important biodiversity refuges in a highly modified agricultural landscape. They are also seen by Aboriginal people as important remaining access to traditional country and resources. For these reasons alone their current status must be retained.
Taken together my concerns indicate that the draft legislation will accept a more rapid progression of now common species to threatened status.
The 'best of the rest' should be a major focus to ensure that this progression is slowed and hopefully stopped.
This is not to say that threatened species are unimportant, but more that we should ensure that we get the mix and effort balance right.
NSW's record of effective biodiversity management has been poor in the past, the legislation of the future should emphatically redress our past performance. It is unlikely that the current draft proposals will achieve this result without significant positive change.
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