Political Interference into Enforcement of Land-Clearing Laws Must Be Investigated

The NSW Nature Conservation Council and NSW National Parks Association are calling for a full public investigation into the political interference in the enforcement of land-clearing laws following revelations by the ABC Lateline program last night. [1]

Last night’s program exposed the grubby background to the Baird government’s controversial land clearing laws, set to pass through NSW Parliament today, including illegal clearing of Crown land, political intimidation and interference in land-clearing investigations, distressed farmers who have been used as political pawns, and murder of public officials.

The groups are also demanding the Baird government withdraw new land-clearing laws that are currently before parliament until the investigations are completed.

NPA CEO Kevin Evans said: “The disturbing revelations last night showed a politically well-connected class of landholder apparently operating above the laws that apply to the little guy.

“These laws must not go through parliament until the political interference by Nationals MPs in the enforcement of land-clearing laws is fully investigated.

“Honest family farmers who rejected illegal land clearing and assisted the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) investigations into allegations of illegal clearing have seen cases dropped and watched their neighbours profit from seemingly ill-gotten gains.

“Cowboys who were shown by ABC to have illegally cleared thousands of hectares of bush and bulldozed public Travelling Stock Routes to extend their farms will get a retrospective pat on the back if the Native Vegetation Act 2003 is repealed and Mr Baird’s new laws pass through parliament.”

NCC CEO Kate Smolski said: “The Lateline report shows the contempt that some big agribusinesses have for environmental laws and the impact of their actions on their neighbours.

“The intervention of Nationals MP Kevin Humphries appears to have been an attempt to shut down legitimate investigationsintolandclearing. Major questions must now be asked of the National Party’s role incondoningillegalbehaviourand one of its MPs using his influence to shut down legitimate investigations into environmental crimes.

“The only way forward is for a full investigation of the connections between big agribusiness, the National Party and decisions by the OEH to drop investigations.

“The bills Mr Baird now has before parliament have little to do with biodiversity conservation and everything to do with fast-tracking land clearing and property development. They will further the short-term interests of property developers and big agribusiness, not the communities and wildlife that depend on healthy soils, waterways and bushland for their long-term survival.”

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-14/battle-for-the-bush/7903010

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