Biodiversity and Land Clearing Reforms Pass the NSW Parliament

QLD Water Reforms Passed with Amendment
November 17, 2016
Water Recovery Targets Proposed to be Cut in Murray Darling Basin
November 23, 2016

Biodiversity and Land Clearing Reforms Pass the NSW Parliament

Last week the New South Wales Parliament introduced amendments to the state’s biodiversity and conservation laws.  The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 (NSW) will repeal the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 and the animal and plant provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. The bill seeks to consolidate land management laws in NSW. Currently, NSW planning laws largely protect rural environments from broad scale land clearing. The current government has justified reform to these laws saying in the current state conservation land management laws decrease productivity of agricultural land, with little compensation or assistance to agriculturalists for the compulsory protection of biodiversity.

With native vegetation recognised as a key proxy for ecosystem protection, the new bill seeks to collaborate between government and stakeholders to create a system that incentivises protection. The reforms are grouped into four key areas

  • First: a new rural land management framework will be established under which landholders will be able to improve and expand their agricultural activities, in some cases in exchange for managing parts of their property for environmental outcomes.
  • Second: a new market based system will be established for avoiding, minimising, measuring and offsetting the biodiversity impacts of development, with flexible options for developers and strategic oversight by government.
  • Third: a risk-based approach for regulating interactions with native plants and animals; and
  • Fourth: new arrangements will be established to deliver conservation outcomes on private land, supported by an unprecedented level of direct government investment. Private land conservation will be split into three types of agreements between government and landholders:
    • Biodiversity stewardship agreements are in perpetuity agreements that require landholders to undertake management actions in exchange for annual payments
    • Conservation agreements will provide a mechanism for landholders to be rewarded for the provision of ecosystem services to the community
    • Wildlife refuge agreements are agreements between landholders and the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (a new body) for the purposes of studying or conserving the biodiversity values of the land

The reforms will introduce into the Local Land Service Act 2013 (NSW) new criteria for determining land on which native vegetation impacts are and are not regulated; new allowable activities permitting landholders to undertake routine land management activities without permission; new codes of practice permitting impacts on native vegetation in regulated rural areas; and a new clearing approval process that leverages the biodiversity offsets scheme and requires triple bottom line decision-making. The new legislation will categorise land into

  • Category one: exempt land whereby no authorisation for clearing is necessary
  • Category two: regulated land which will consist of largely native vegetation

A map of the categorisation of areas will be developed in consultation with stakeholders. A lack of public consultation for ministerial declarations over land will not invalidate documents. Land declared as of outstanding value by the Minister will be protected under the Regulations which are yet to be produced. The new reforms will be supported by $240 million dollars in investment from the government over five years  and then $70 million per year after that in private land conservation, in addition to $100 million to fund the Saving our Species program.

 

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