NSW Biodiversity Act, the debate set to ramp up

The NSW Government released its draft biodiversity reforms in May 2016 and despite the reforms going some way to helping farmers and biodiversity, the NSW Farmers’ Association is calling for key amendments.

NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman said: "This is not Queensland" and has promised "a wider range of checks and balances" with respect to the NSW Biodiversity Act reforms.

NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman said: "This is not Queensland" and has promised "a wider range of checks and balances" with respect to the NSW Biodiversity Act reforms.

The association’s spokesperson, Mitchell Clapham, said farmers have been waiting for more than 20 years for biodiversity laws that strike the “right balance between farm productivity and protecting biodiversity”.

“What we’re calling for is sensible reform that will give more flexibility to farmers to get on with their jobs of providing food for the people of Australia and other parts of the world,” Mr Clapham said.

“The association would like to see the caps removed from the codes of practices, as well as biodiversity schemes that farmers can actually access.

“Farmers need to be able to make decisions on-farm that are in the best interests of both productivity and the environment.  

“It’s important the new laws are done once and done right. Farmers are the ones on-the-ground having to work with current laws failing farmers and failing the environment with adverse environmental impacts.

“The ‘lock up and leave’ approach is a proven way to decline biodiversity. It’s outdated, and in fact it is reckless … we’re urging the Baird-Grant Government to come through for farmers, as promised in the MoU signed between the NSW Government and NSW Farmers in March 2015.”

However, Greens NSW MP and Environment Spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC told the Courier-Sun she rejects the Farmers’ Association statements and said protecting biodiversity is fundamental to a healthy environment, a strong economy and a sustainable farming sector.

“The Baird Government’s proposed laws water down environmental protections and put all this at risk,” Dr Faruqi said.

“They will lead to more land clearing and biodiversity loss in an already climate constrained world.

“It is very clear that nothing will satisfy the NSW Farmers’ organisation, who wants to weaken the laws even further. Not even the current draft of the Baird Government’s bill, which removes environmental protections for huge swathes of the state, deletes the ‘improve or maintain the environment’ standard and expands the disastrous biodiversity offsetting policy goes far enough for them.

“The NSW Government needs to stop pandering to big agribusiness interests and start listening to the science that more land clearing is bad for agricultural, bad for the environment and bad for the climate.”

It’s expected the NSW Government will table its biodiversity bills in parliament in this spring sitting.

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