Draft Biodiversity Act Explained
In response to huge demand for concise information, this summary was provided by an ecologist with wide experience and status in the community of Western Sydney. At his request I have removed his name from the email which he sent to HEN yesterday. There are 8 numbered sections which enable you to get the gist of how damaging this legislation is. Please take time to read on. Then at the bottom there are actions you might consider to let the Premier and his environment minister know just how you feel about this. Thank you.
This morning the draft NSW Biodiversity Act was announced for public comment. This proposal constitutes the most serious threat our wildlife has faced during my lifetime.
Over the next few weeks conservation groups will provide submission guides and workshops about the draft Biodiversity Act. In the meantime I have highlighted some of the critical issues for you to be aware of below (and apologise for any errors or omissions)…
Summary: The draft Act would change the nature of NSW biodiversity protections:
- From our current regulatory system where the impact of development proposals is assessed (where unacceptable impacts are refused and/or challenged in court);
- To an offset based system where developments are approved so long as funds are paid to protect and restore biodiversity elsewhere (with no effective refusal or challenge in court)
The draft Act would remove virtually all legal avenues for the public to effectively oppose developments which harm our endangered wildlife. Illegal direct action would become the only effective avenue for community to oppose unacceptable impacts on our natural heritage.
- Reduced scale: The draft Act has lower objectives than the current acts. It’s stated objectives are to maintain (not restore) biodiversity and to ‘facilitate’ sustainable development’.
The scale for biodiversity conservation is broadened from local to bioregional & state only. So while existing declarations for endangered populations remain it would be difficult to list any in the future.
The draft Act provides for continued habitat loss with the scale and rate of loss managed through offsetting. Developments will no longer need to consider indirect impacts such as climate impact, pollution, introduction of pests or other indirect impacts on endangered biodiversity (6.3). Instead a payment will be made to secure a future offset for direct (clearing) impacts only.
2. Ending legal appeals (Ministerial power): The draft Act removes almost all grounds for appealing developments in court, and gives almost unlimited discretionary power to the Minister for Environment.
There will no longer be avenues for appeal when environmental assessments ignore endangered species, and no avenues for appeal against the merits of proposals. Conversely the draft Act provides numerous appeal rights for those doing the wrong thing: for illegal clearing, failure to meet conservation offset actions (8.23) or if you are refused a licence to harm a protected species (2.16).
The Minister for the Environment can determined developments as they see fit and in the unlikely event the Minister refuses a proposal the developer can submit it to the Premier to resolve (quoting the act) ‘as the premier thinks fit‘ (5.17)
3. Corruption risk: The ICAC has strongly criticised the proposal for broad Ministerial powers noted above. The new Act goes further and allows for those regulating development offsets to personally invest in the same offsets they approve (6.6). This provides extremely high risks of mismanagement and corruption.
4. Public information about offsets: The OEH can choose to restrict any information they choose from the public register of offsets (s 9.10) making public oversight of the scheme impossible. OEH already restrict data on BioBanking making it impossible to see where funds for development offsets go – an alarming situation.
There would no longer be a requirement to publicly list submissions lodged against a development (9.3 pt2) and developers could choose to ‘summarize’ ecological assessments for public consultation as they see fit, rather than publicly exhibit the full assessment (9.2 part 4)
5. Offsets not like-for-like: the draft Act repeatedly claims that offsets will be made for the same species or community which is lost by clearing. In reality the Act details allows offsets to be for a different species or vegetation communities so long as they are considered more threatened.
6. Misusing bequests & covenants: Some landowners have made the ultimate gift and covenanted their bushland property to conserve it forever after they are gone. Many landowners have done this explicitly to ensure their property is not used to justify or offset development elsewhere.
The draft Act will allow their properties to be converted from the covenant (after death or sale) and be used to offset development (technically: the existing covenants automatically become a Conservation Agreement Tier 2 and can be upgraded to a Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement Tier 1).
This is an appalling breach of trust with the gift these landowners have made. Land gifted to the Nature Conservation Trust with restrictions would also have these restrictions removed (10.8 to 10.9)
Some covenants have also been forcibly created under compliance (i.e. as offsets for illegal clearing) – these could now be cashed in by their owners, rewarding illegal activity and justifying even more land-clearing.
7. Offsets not to be protected in perpetuity: Offset sites are not in perpetuity but can be cleared by simply ‘offsetting the offset’. Mining rights and mining prospecting override offset sites and their landowners (5.18) and the landowner is not entitled to compensation for the lost biodiversity payments (5.18 pt 8). Offset sites can be developed with consent from the Minister for Environment (s5.10 & 5.16 b) for example or for ‘a purpose of special significance to the state‘ (5.16 c)
8. No need to have offsets available: Development can proceed by payment into a Biodiversity Conservation Fund even if offsets are not available. Shortages of offsets are likely to be frequent – a current example is the Badgerys Creek Airport development which refuses to pay landowners enough to secure offsets for endangered Marsdenia viridiflora, so will instead fund other actions to ‘assist’ the species. For example offsets could be research and ‘education’ (3 b) rather than conservation of habitat.
For the brave you can read all the documents at www.landmanagement.nsw.gov
Please consider this new threat to our environment and get in touch with out wonderful NGOs as they develop submission guidelines on these matters.
Feel free to distribute this summary and get the discussion started
And most of all keep up the great work in conserving our natural heritage–
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Message from NSW Nature Conservation Council
After months of speculation, the Baird government has finally released draft laws that will scrap protections for our unique wildlife and bushland.
Premier Baird’s plan is nothing short of a disaster and will allow big agribusiness and developers to trash wildlife habitat across NSW.
We must stop these bad Bills from becoming law. Today is the first day of public consultation on the draft Bills. Show the Government you wont sit back and let nature be bulldozed, email Environment Minister Mark Speakman now.
The draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill is supposed to be the main legal protection for trees and wildlife in this state. It should help to save the koala and pygmy possum and other vulnerable species for generations to come.
Yet if the plan the government released today becomes law, it will result in the death of thousands of animals every year, and take NSW down the same dangerous path of broad-scale land clearing that recently devastated hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland in Queensland.
The Baird Government is already on a charm offensive, trying to spin the story to say he’s protecting nature. But we’ve known all along the government is only re-writing our land clearing laws to benefit big agribusiness and developers.
Our Environment Minister Mark Speakman will be waiting to see if he’s gotten away with trashing our laws. Show him you’re watching by sending him an email today.
Keen to do more? Amplify your voice by calling Environment Minister Mark Speakman’s office on 8574 6390 and let him know you don’t support their Bills.
Share this message via your choice of social media. Thank youContinue reading
A PLEA FROM OUR OVERSEAS VISITORS
Dotted throughout the Hawkesbury region are many small to large swampy areas and dams that are the spring /summer home of a bird called the Latham’s Snipe. These wading birds breed in Japan and migrate to the S/E of Australia from Japan each year. It is the size of a dove with a very long bill which it uses in a sewing machine action to probe for food in soft ground. Many of you that have a swampy area or dam on your property probably have these birds as visitors each year. However, because they are such a secretive species they are probably overlooked. If you sit quietly, not too close, they will often venture out into the open to feed. Far too often we think that these swampy areas are of no value and we fill them in depriving this bird of its habitat. After years of surveying many of the swamps in the Windsor /Richmond area I find most of them support small groups of snipe. The snipe is a protected species in Australia covered by agreements with China, Korea and Japan.
The snipe’s plea is that before you decide to get rid of those swampy areas please consider their plight. If we keep displacing snipe by destroying all these small swampy areas which collectively constitute a much larger area, where will they go? Contrary to what most people think they will not find a place on another swamp because that swamp will probably already have snipe and cannot support a larger population, so eventually the species will decline and become extinct.
If any reader would like to know if their swamp/dam does or could support snipe please give Keith a call 45751514. Keith Brandwood Activities Officer Cumberland Bird Observers Club. 59.Kurmond Road Wilberforce.Continue reading
THURSDAY 31ST MARCH : ENERGY EFFICIENT HOUSE
ENERGY EFFICIENT HOUSE WORKSHOP
- How can you save money on your electricity bills?
- HEN is holding the first of a series of bi-monthly Forums for 2016
- The first forum will be on the subject of energy efficiency in the home.
- What appliances can you use less and at what time of the day?
- Should you put solar panels on your roof and is now the right time to invest in a battery to save the power you generate by day to use at night?
Thursday 31st March 6.30pm A short tour of the Earthcare site will be conducted by Eric before the workshop begins at 7pm. Please note, entry to University grounds after 7pm is via Londonderry Rd.
Supper will be served. Entry by gold coin donation.
Hawkesbury Earthcare Centre: Corner of Beef Cattle Rd & Campus Drive Western Sydney University.
- Eric Brocken: Co-ordinator at Henry Doubleday Research Association on the Earthcare building and sustainability
- Michael Bellsted: expert in refrigeration, process cooling and heating, energy efficiency and energy re-use
- Nathan Brown: designs, supplies and installs solar energy systems
For more details or booking, please call Jocelyn on 0407 254 415 or email [email protected]Continue reading
Bushells Lagoon news: wetlands are critically important
There is increasing interest in the work undertaken by Green Army around Bushells Lagoon in the last six months: an appreciative audience attended their presentation at the Australiana Pioneer Village on Wednesday 4th November to meet the team and leader Andy Araya, and see the details: weed removal, study of carp and birdlife, planting hundreds of native species around lagoon edges and maintenance works.See the Green Army Stage One Presentation, in which one of the highlights was the timelapse sequence of hard work on African boxthorn which cleared a huge pile of the hardy shrub from beneath the native paperbarks.
Meanwhile, meetings with landholders and local organisations continue to develop the plan for Stage Two which starts in December. This wetland supports a range of agricultural businesses whilst also being home for over 130 species of waterfowl and other birds. A joint effort to combine both for the good of the local community and businesses is important. Contact project co-ordinator, Robin Woods, on 0414 672 014 or email [email protected] for more information.
Love Redbank…the Creek that no-one knows
Richmond and surrounds copped deluges the last couple of weeks, and calls were received by HEN about massive plumes of muddy water heading into the creek from a side stormwater drain. Investigation by our local Streamwatchers and calls via social media for action!! See the video taken at Susella Weir. If this is to be the future scenario for our local creeks and bush, then Hawkesbury is really in trouble!
Approval for an increase in development which will more than double the urban population at Nth Richmond, let alone the spot rezoning all the way to Kurrajong Heights is adding hard surfaces and reducing any chance of rain filtering through the natural grassy surfaces. Nearly 30 square km area feeds the Redbank Creek. This translates to thousands of litres of water for every rain event. The more clay in the soil, the higher the runoff. (more…)Continue reading