THE State’s native vegetation laws, controversial since they were introduced in the 1990s, are scheduled for a major overhaul in a move welcomed by Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall.
Flaws in the existing system prompted the NSW Government to draft the 2016 Biodiversity Conservation Bill, which is being released for an eight-week public consultation.
The legislation was developed based on a report by an independent expert panel that made 43 recommendations on improving native vegetation management in NSW.
Mr Marshall said since taking office, he has repeatedly heard from farmers and conservationists that the current system is unworkable.
“We cannot properly manage our native vegetation used a process that has been proven, time and again, not to be effective,” Mr Marshall said.
“The existing Act has not prevented declines in biodiversity, and it has interfered with farmers’ ability to improve their productivity. On our crowded planet, increasing agricultural productivity is one of the most important strategies we have for conserving areas of high biodiversity.”
Mr Marshall said that ambiguities and inconsistencies in the existing system have been one of the regular flashpoints for farmers wanting to improve their operations.
The 2016 Biodiversity Conservation Bill clarifies when farmers may clear vegetation, and when they may not; and it provides financial incentives to conserve native vegetation.
“Supporting farmers financially to conserve biodiversity means that when they have areas of native vegetation, they can make a decision about whether it is more financially advantageous to farm it or set it aside and receive biodiversity payments.”
“At present, there is only one option that potentially produces an income, and that is to farm it.”
Conservation goals will be supported in line with latest science on biodiversity conservation. This emphasises that biodiversity needs room, and that locking up small areas with the intention of protecting threatened species is counterproductive.
The new Bill looks at how biodiversity can be protected at the bioregional and State level, with conservation areas managed so that where possible, they are adjoining or linked by corridors rather than being isolated islands.
Areas and species of importance will continue to be protected.
A new, independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee will be charged with assessing the effects of development on vulnerable species, and providing advice on how areas of conflict might be handled.
Mr Marshall’s assessment of the draft Bill is that it is “fair and balanced”.
“It will allow primary producers to get on with the business of farming, and for the community to be confident that our priceless biodiversity is being protected.”
NSW Farmers’ Association have committed to hold forums around the new Bill in coming weeks.
“I am looking forward to discussing the proposed changes in my electorate and will be participating in forums being organised by the Association,” Mr Marshall said.
The public can contribute comment on the 2016 Biodiversity Conservation Bill until June 28.