A menacing attempt by the Sydney bureaucracy to strangle Clarence and Richmond Valley farmers and timber producers in red tape has been defeated, according to Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis.
“The deal done today (Wednesday October 7) between the Liberals and Nationals in NSW Government exempts primary producers from the complex new rules but still enforces them on Sydney suburban development, which is the reason the new State Environment Planning Policy or SEPP was changed in the first place,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“I was ready to walk out of the Coalition over this issue – that is how important it is; but, like all successful families we were able to sit down at the table and reach a sensible solution.”
“I particularly thank Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Nationals Leader John Barilaro and acting Nationals Leader Paul Toole for listening to, and acting on the concerns I relayed to them in person from my constituents.”
Mr Gulaptis said farmers were only just beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel after a lengthy drought, the worst bushfires in a generation and the corona recession,
“The last thing they needed was an army of Sydney bureaucrats micromanaging their property,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“This new balanced approach will protect koalas, protect their habitat, and protect farmers’ and family timber firms’ property rights across the Clarence and Richmond Valleys.”
There are existing protections in the land management framework, which include harsh penalties for individuals or corporations who harm a threatened species. These provisions and protections are also unchanged.
What others think about the amendments
Koalas can’t cope with more habitat loss: Inquiry Chair
The back down by the NSW Liberals on the new Koala SEPP Guidelines to demands by the National Party means the future of the Koala in NSW is looking even more bleak, says Cate Faehrmann Greens MP and Chair of the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Koalas.
“Koalas have suffered so much, with at least one third of them killed in the bushfires,” said Ms Faehrmann
“They are now seeking refuge and safety in the pockets of bushland and forests which remain. Any further loss could be devastating for local populations which are the key to the species ongoing survival.
“The protection of habitat necessary to stop koalas becoming extinct must be decided by the science, not by the National Party. For the Liberals to back down on the definition of core koala habitat after years of extensive research and mapping by experts is hugely disappointing,” says Ms Faehrmann.
“The changes to the definition of core koala habitat was the key change that was most supported by wildlife advocates, with many environment groups still concerned that protections for koalas in the new laws were too weak.
“This back down to the National Party’s demands doesn’t bode well for future reforms to protect koala habitat in the coming years.
“I fail to see how the Environment Minister is going to keep koala numbers stable let alone double their numbers by 2050 if he can’t get his government to stick to what the experts are telling them is needed to save koalas and their habitat,” says Ms Faehrmann.
Weakening of koalas protections is totally unacceptable
Conservation groups have vowed to continue campaigning for greater protections for koalas after the amendments.
The Nature Conservation Council calls on the NSW Government to:
- Make the development of Koalas Plans of Management compulsory for all local government areas where koala habitat is found; and
- Allocate funds in the coming budget for the rapid development of those plans.
“Any moves to water down koala protections are absolutely unacceptable,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.
“The species is sliding very rapidly towards extinction and the government should be doing everything in its power to stop that happening.
“If the Liberals and Nationals want to make it easier to destroy koala habitat and kill koalas, they will be judged very harshly by the public. No one wants our national icon to disappear.
Mr Gambian said currently only six of the almost 90 councils with koalas have completed koala plans of management.
“Part of the problem is that some councils are hostile to koala conservation. Others simply lack the resources to create the plan,” Mr Gambian said.
“If the NSW Government is serious about koala conservation, it should make the development of koala plans of management mandatory for all identified regions and ensure all councils have the resources they need to draft and then implement them.
“The cost of Koala Plans of Management varies but are in the order of $150,000. That means the government could help develop plans for the whole state for a little more than $12 million.”
Berejiklian Government back-flip a nail in the coffin of koalas
The Berejiklian Government’s back-flip over identifying and protecting core koala habitat from development, clearing and logging is another nail in the coffin of Koalas, according to the North East Forest Alliance.
“The Government’s spin that their gutting of 25 years of koala protection is somehow a good outcome for koalas is utter nonsense”, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
“With 61% of koala habitat on private land, making mapped core koala habitat available for logging and allowing its broadscale clearing without approval, is a major loss of protection and will hasten the looming extinction of koalas.
“Koala populations had declined by 50% over 20 years on the north coast before the fires, then they lost 30% of their remaining populations in one fire season, and now the Berejiklian Government is reducing koala protections on private lands, while logging their surviving populations on public lands.
“Despite the warning of the bipartisan Koala Inquiry that koalas could become extinct by 2050 the Berejiklian Government’s perverse response has been to dramatically weaken protection for koalas.
“The Liberals caved in to National Party bullying, this is not how you double a species population, this is how you make a species extinct.” Mr. Pugh said.
Common sense prevails with amendments to the Koala SEPP
NSW Farmers is very pleased common sense has prevailed with the NSW Government making sensible amendments to the Koala SEPP planning regulation.
President of NSW Farmers’ James Jackson said the farmers of NSW can now continue to protect koalas without being hindered by the excessive red tape designed for urban and peri-urban developments.
“The clear message we appreciate from this announcement is that the work the NSW Government has already done in getting the balance right of working with farmers not against them, is back on track.
“NSW Farmers is pleased to have the support of the NSW Government in making sensible changes that keep the management of rural land, and hence the protection of the environment and threatened species on private land, out of inappropriate planning laws.”
Amendments to the Koala SEPP include:
- Decoupling the Land Management Codes and private native forestry from the Koala SEPP.
- Redefining ‘core koala habitat’ to mean an area with a verified record of koalas and highly suitable for koalas.
- Concessions to the proof of occupation of koalas in an area, requiring consultation with Local Land Services.
- Returning to an on-the-ground survey method and removing the pink Development Application map.
“NSW Farmers looks forward to working further with the NSW Government to ensure that these positive steps continue and red tape doesn’t impede reasonable developments on farm,” Mr Jackson said.
The Association greatly appreciates the support of Minister Marshall, his colleagues, and the Government as a whole in working with farmers to ensure that the protection of koalas on private land is strong now and into the future.