NSW Liberal Government Guts Biodiversity Protections

Today the NSW Government pushed through amendments to biodiversity legislation that will make land clearing easier, reduce biodiversity protections, and change the way threatened species are managed, reducing protections. Read our contribution to the debate below. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 17:11 :09 ): I make a contribution to the debate on the Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 and the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016. I acknowledge that the member for Ballina, my Greens colleague in this place, has already spoken at length on behalf of The Greens and has highlighted our serious concerns with these bills. Also my Greens colleagues in the other place Dr Mehreen Faruqi and Mr Jeremy Buckingham and others raised concerns about these bills in the early hours of the morning when the bills passed through the other place. Dr Mehreen Faruqi said that the new legislation involves a massive expansion of land clearing, the release of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases, adding to the climate change emergency, and an acceleration in the loss of already threatened species in this State.

The member for Cootamundra spoke about a discussion she had at a school she attended as to whether or not city members of Parliament get to vote on legislation relating to regional areas and similarly whether regional members get to vote on matters relating to the city. It is important we all have a say because the environment and land of New South Wales are in the interests of us all. When the Government chooses to spend $16.8 billion on a polluting WestConnex motorway in the city that impacts the area I represent, that is roads funding that will not go to black spots in regional areas. Similarly, when talking about land clearing and the destruction of the environment in regional areas, people in the electorate of Newtown have grave concerns about the protection of the environment.

It is incumbent on all of us in this place to consider what is in the interests of all communities in New South Wales and to protect them and our environment. Unfortunately, we do not see that with this legislation today. The Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016 abolishes the Native Vegetation Act 2003 and establishes a replacement native vegetation management system for private land which makes land clearing easier, some even without approvals. The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 abolishes the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 and the plants and animals provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and remakes these elements into the new Act.

It will expand biodiversity offsetting, change the way threatened species are managed and manage interactions between plants and animals. Both bills are inferior to the current laws and systems, which should be further strengthened and better resourced and implemented. We should be concerned about any bill that seeks to abolish the Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Nature Conservation Trust Act. The Baird Liberal‑Nationals Government is engaging basically in a war on trees, on the environment and on green space. There is no mention of climate change or the impacts of biodiversity on climate change in these bills. Also, there has been no discussion of the impacts that land clearing will have on exacerbating climate change.

Just yesterday in this place, Kiribati women involved in the Kiribati Climate Action Network visited the Parliament. I acknowledge that the member for Summer Hill hosted those visitors and brought members from across the political spectrum to hear their stories. Those young women were in tears as they shared their personal stories. Anyone wishing to see the real and personal impact of climate change—new and dirty, polluting coalmines, land clearing and the failure to act—need look no further than the personal impact it is having on the lives of those women and their families.

It is clear from what Premier Baird is doing across this State that he is not convinced of the need to protect our environment. For some bizarre reason he is engaging in a widespread war on trees. He is bulldozing trees at a rate that is unbelievable, even in our city areas. We are seeing the destruction of natural environments. We have seen 100-year-old fig trees destroyed along Anzac Parade. The member for Coogee and his constituency would no doubt be aware of concerns about the light rail, which is destroying trees along its route. That should not be allowed. Just this week the Langton Clinic fig tree was destroyed as a result of the light rail route. That was not necessary. The City of Sydney had a plan but the Government does not listen; it just bulldozes trees. The Government destroyed the last remnants of the Cooks River ironbark forest, a critically endangered ecological community. It did so not for a piece of critical infrastructure such as WestConnex. It was done just to build a temporary worksite to assist the construction of WestConnex. I repeat: the Government destroyed a critically endangered ecological community in the Cooks River ironbark forest not to build WestConnex but just to erect a temporary worksite for the WestConnex project. This piece of endangered forest was so important that any previous construction was built around it. It is outrageous.

This level of critically endangered ecological forest cannot be replaced. These ancient trees and ecosystems are irreplaceable. Once genetic material from an ecologically endangered community is gone it is gone forever. People cannot go down to the local nursery, buy a plant and plant a few more trees in another area to somehow match the loss that was effected there. Most plants bought from a commercial nursery come from a very limited genetic pool. In commercial horticulture, thousands of plants are grown from a single parent plant and all have an identical genetic make-up. In contrast, wild ecosystems depend on a complex and varied interplay of genetic variation and adaptation to a local area.

Ironbark trees from the banks of the Cooks River are perfectly adapted to that environment. They are completely different in nature from the ironbark trees one buys at a nursery. Diversity in our ecosystem allows them to be resilient to the changing climate. That is why biodiversity offsets are a completely flawed concept. One biodiverse area cannot be replaced with another. Nothing will bring back the Cooks River ironbark forest. Those plants and animals are gone forever. The Baird Liberal-National Government has demonstrated that it cannot grasp biodiversity because it got rid of the ironbark forest at the Cooks River for a temporary WestConnex construction site.

It is disgusting and disgraceful. It is important that we remind the Baird Liberal-Nationals Government that the land and environment are not theirs to destroy. No-one owns them and it is not for the Government to destroy them. That is why The Greens oppose these bills. I acknowledge the constituents from the electorate of Newtown and the many thousands of people who made submissions during the laughable consultation process. Thousands of people said they wanted stronger protections. Instead, there will be a weakening of the laws. Karen in Stanmore said, "I would be deeply alarmed if the State was to follow the path taken by Queensland." James from Newtown said, "I am worn down by the present situation facing this civilised nation. OMG. And how they want to facilitate the blanket destruction of swathes of habitat of native fauna and flora." Patricia from Surry Hills and Ellen from Stanmore expressed deep concern about the reality of the actions of the Baird Liberal-Nationals Government. What is happening now is a destruction of the earth, and it is shameful and despicable.


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