Independent NSW MP Justin Field has slammed the NSW Liberal/National Government for failing to protect the environment as new data reveals an alarming rise in “unexplained” land clearing and a continuation of record levels of deforestation since Nationals’ land clearing reforms came into effect in 2017.
The new data comes as Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, seeks to deliver on an agreement with Liberal Ministers that was supposed to settle the so-called ‘Koala Wars’, with the Nationals Party pushing for changes to further weaken land clearing and private forestry rules.
The latest Statewide landcover change reporting data shows changes in woody vegetation cover and vegetation cover across rural land based on satellite imagery taken in 2019/2020. The data reveals:
- 54,500 ha of woody vegetation cleared for all purposes (agriculture, forestry and infrastructure) - almost 200 times the size of the Sydney CBD
- 74% of all clearing of woody and non-woody vegetation considered “unexplained” (unknown justification or unlawful)
- 23,400 ha of woody vegetation cleared for agriculture - more than 80 times the size of the Sydney CBD
- Overall deforestation and land clearing have continued at levels significantly above the long-term average since 2017 law changes
- Clearing of “sensitive” and “vulnerable” land has doubled since 2017 laws commenced.
NOTE: See Key Statistics below
In 2020 the forced release of a previously secret Natural Resources Commission report reviewing the first year of operation of the 2017 land management reforms concluded the laws allowed clearing that posed a “statewide risk to biodiversity”.
Independent NSW MP Justin Field said “land clearing and deforestation is out of control in NSW.
“Despite the massive ecological damage of the 2019/20 fires and the clear imperative to protect what is left, the Berejiklian Government is allowing ongoing deforestation and habitat destruction at record levels.
“The massive increase in “unexplained” clearing shows some farmers are gaming the system and using loopholes in so-called ‘self-assessable’ codes to try to hide what is likely in many instances to be illegal clearing. Some private landholders are relying on the rules to be deliberately unenforceable or betting on the Government not taking enforcement seriously.
“These figures should serve as a warning to Premier Berejiklian and Liberal Ministers currently trying to find a compromise in the “Koala Wars” with John Barilaro and the Nationals. Any further watering down of land clearing and private logging rules will be the nail in the coffin for the koala and cannot be tolerated.
“It is ridiculous that the Liberals are throwing millions at a koala strategy to protect koalas on private land while allowing tens of thousands of hectares of forests and woodlands to be cleared on private land each year and while the Nationals work to further water down protections and limitations to clearing and logging.
“We need an urgent overhaul of these laws to halt this unacceptable level of land clearing and deforestation in NSW. There is currently a secret interagency review of the land clearing codes underway. Firstly, this must become an open and transparent process to legitimately deal with the crisis at hand. Secondly, we need to draw a red line when it comes to Koala protection in NSW and ensure that clearing of Koala habitat is simply not allowed.
“At the end of the day Koalas need trees and no amount of money can protect koalas if the NSW Government keeps allowing their trees to be cleared or logged,” Mr Field said.
- 54,500 ha woody vegetation lost in 2019 (clearing related to agriculture, forestry, infrastructure)
- 40% more than the long term annual average before the law changes in 2017
- Is an area almost 200 times the size of the Sydney CBD.
- Three quarters (74%) of woody and non woody vegetation clearing was “unexplained” (55,597 ha)
- North West and Central West regions had the highest rates of “unexplained” clearing (91% and 73% respectively)
- Since the 2017 reforms, cumulatively 134,744 ha of clearing has been reported as “unexplained”.
- 23,400 ha woody vegetation cleared for agriculture
- 67% more than long term annual average before the law changes in 2017
- An area more than 80 times the size of the Sydney CBD
- Another 46,344 ha of non woody vegetation cleared for agriculture
- 2,192 ha of clearing of ‘sensitive’ and ‘vulnerable’ rural regulated land
- Over 100% Increase since rules for ‘sensitive’ and ‘vulnerable’ rural regulated land commenced in 2017 (1086 ha in first year of operation in 2017)
NOTE: Data excludes vegetation cover change based on fire impacts based on an assumption this vegetation will regrow.