The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC) believes the NSW Nationals have very little if any interest in protecting the region’s koalas. They claim this was highlighted by their recent dispute with their Liberal coalition partners about the Koala SEPP (State Environmental Protection Policy) which became law in March.
CVCC spokesperson Leonie Blain said, “The Nationals have justified their opposition to the SEPP with reasons which are on one level quite puzzling. According to Chris Gulaptis, the Member for Clarence, the SEPP ‘targets rural industries and decimates rural communities without protecting koalas’ and that it ‘essentially determines every part of NSW is koala habitat’.”
“While the SEPP certainly does not provide the level of protection for koalas the CVCC would like to see,” she said, “Mr Gulaptis’ claim that it means all of NSW is defined as koala habitat is arrant nonsense – as is his claim about rural communities being decimated.”
“In reality the SEPP only applies to developments that require a development application (DA) to council. This means that in rural zoned lands in the Clarence and Richmond LGAs extensive agriculture, horticulture and forestry are all developments without consent which means DAs are not required.
“So, this leads to the question of why John Barilaro, Chris Gulaptis and their colleagues are claiming that the SEPP will have such a catastrophic effect on rural industries. That suggests that there is more behind the furor created by the Nationals than they are publicly revealing.
“On another level perhaps it’s less about genuine farmers engaging in standard farming operations and more about developers who want to subdivide farmland into rural residential or urban blocks. Developments such as this would require a development application.
“If this is the case, we have a completely different scenario with the Nationals misrepresenting the effects of the SEPP and pretending they have the welfare of the whole farming community in mind, while they are actually just pushing the interests of a minority – their developer mates.”
Ms Blain stated that what was of great concern to the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition was that these National Party politicians – whatever their real reasons – want the SEPP watered down at a time when Koalas urgently need greatly improved protection- not reduced protection. Unless this happens, their current slip towards extinction will become a landslide.
She concluded by saying that National Party politicians are out of touch with their electorates if they fail to realise that koalas’ dire situation has led to increased state-wide support for effective protection of this species and its habitat. “This support is not just in the city as the Nationals would like their constituents to believe”.