Comments

Dear Sir/Madam, I oppose the NSW Governments proposed new NSW biodiversity reforms that will remove many of NSW's long-held environmental protection laws relating to the regulation of land clearing and protection of biodiversity. I strongly believe that the new draft law and policy package represents a significant backwards step for biodiversity conservation and a step forward for those that see biodiversity and conservation as an impediment to development. I am concerned that the proposed reform package has no effective safety net for avoiding serious or irreversible environmental damage and that proposed changes will increase land clearing and carbon pollution, push wildlife closer to the brink of extinction and undermine the sustainability of our farmland. I am particularly concerned with proposed changes that will: -> Repeal the Native Vegetation Act 2003 and Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 - these are important laws that have led to a significant decrease in land clearing and habitat loss. -> Introduce two bills in conflict: the Biodiversity Conservation Bill that carries over provisions of our current threatened species laws and the Local Land Services Bill that will increase known threats to threatened species by allowing more land clearing via self-assessed codes and discretionary development applications. -> Remove the requirement to maintain or improve biodiversity values, leading to a decline in environmental outcomes, soil health, water quality and salinity; -> Limit important safeguards, such as red flag areas for environmentally sensitive areas; -> Expand the use of self-assessable codes, allowing landholders to clear trees with little oversight ; -> Increase the use of biodiversity offsets, with variations to like for like offsetting and allowing proponents to clear trees in exchange for paying money into a fund. -> hand the vast majority of clearing approvals to the Local Land Services which currently do not have the resources or expertise to carry out this function and allow for the local land services to have the discretion to set a lower offset obligation if justified by the economic or social benefit of clearing . -> allow for impacts on one species to be offset with another species from the same taxonomic rank (this shows no understanding of the specialised requirements of many threatened animal species) -> produce land use regulatory maps that determine where land clearing rules apply which significantly loosen the environmental checks and balances in the current system, being less stringent, evidence based or accountable. These maps are focussed on woody vegetation which ignores species, including threatened species that are found in other habitat types, including grasslands or that use paddock trees. -> allow for the clearing of paddock trees without proper assessment that are of critical importance to many native species ->potentially decrease development constraints and offset requirements in urban coastal areas under development pressure to the detriment of species and communities in these areas (there is particular uncertainty in this regard given that the SEPP that will specify urban clearing regulation is not public yet) ->allow for conservation agreements to be overturned by the Minister I am also very concerned that: -> the reform package almost completely ignores climate change. Anthropogenic climate change is a key threatening process based on the likely significant impacts on ecosystems and biota and must be addressed in a meaningful manner. -> no changes are proposed for the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 and hence substantive and robust changes are not being considered across all environments not just terrestrial habitats. The proposed package also carries over many of the known deficiencies of the current legislation, including exemptions and wide discretion for major projects with the potential for the greatest environmental impacts, a focus on listed threatened biota rather than focussing on biodiversity as a whole and other protected species, including those vulnerable species approaching threatened status, and mining is still permitted in areas that have been set aside to offset losses from other projects or in areas of outstanding biodiversity value. Rewriting our biodiversity laws is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to halt declining biodiversity while maintaining flexibility for landholders to manage their lands effectively - it can be done! In this regard, I am in full support of the Environmental Defenders Office's 'Ten Recommendations for making effective Biodiversity laws', which state that to be effective, biodiversity laws should: 1. be designed to prevent extinction 2. Apply a 'maintain or improve' standard to all development 3. Address key threats such as broad scale clearing of remnant native vegetation and climate change 4. establish a NSW Environment Commission or Biodiversity Commissioner to provide advice and oversight 5. mandate the use of scientifically robust assessment tools 6. Invest in private land conservation (the current reforms do this) 7. Clearly require comprehensive data, monitoring, reporting on condition and trends (environmental accounts) 8. limit indirect offsetting 9. Commit to compliance and enforcement 10. properly resources regional natural resource management bodies to work with landholders, have expertise to do assessments and make natural resource management plans that relate to clear targets. I therefore call on the government to withdraw the Draft Biodiversity reform package, for reconsideration and refocus towards conserving the rapidly declining biodiversity in NSW and commit to laws which will genuinely improve outcomes for biodiversity. Please count this as my submission to the proposed biodiversity conservation reform package. Yours Sincerely, Jayne Tipping BSC MEnvLaw 2040

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