Environmental announcements must herald policy shifts

Government environment announcements welcome but must herald policy shifts to be meaningful

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has cautiously welcomed today’s announcements by the Berejiklian government, but warns that policy settings must change in order to reverse recent wind-backs in environmental protection.

While it is positive that the government is investing more in urban greenspace, it has come after years of destruction of bushland and trees in Sydney and falls short of setting strong targets for greenspace and tree canopy retention as recommended by environment groups. Further, NPA is disappointed that the announcement focuses solely on Sydney and appears to ignore the needs of urban communities in smaller, but rapidly growing, settlements across NSW.

The newly announced national park centred on Tugalong station is a welcome addition, but could have gone further and protected a valuable habitat corridor from land clearing—made easier by new land clearing laws implemented in 2016.

Unfortunately, the government chose to inflate by 40% the size of the announcement by including 1,510ha of already protected land in the total of 3,680ha. New additions total 2,164ha.

The newly protected area contains no ‘koala hubs’ (areas occupied by koalas) identified by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, calling into question the import of the park for koalas.

“We welcome the addition of land into the reserve network and we strongly welcome government recognition that the best way to protect koala habitat is to include it in national parks,” said Anne Dickson, NPA President.

“This area provides for important connectivity so the reservation is good, but it could have gone further and secured the entire corridor in perpetuity.

“It is now easier to clear land in NSW following the new land clearing laws passed in late 2016, and new logging laws commenced in December 2018 herald an intensification of logging state-wide. Thanks to these policy settings, reserves are more important than ever,” Ms Dickson continued.

“It is an unfortunate fact that the rate of reserve creation has fallen dramatically under Ms Berejiklian, Mr Baird and Mr O’Farrell—by over 90% to just 10,675 hectares per year—at the same time as threats to native vegetation have risen sharply due to policy decisions. We need to do much better.

“NPA has proposed several national parks on the NSW north coast—including the Great Koala National Park—to protect koala habitat, and the government should urgently implement these in order to protect known koala habitat and populations from logging.

“If these announcements are to do more than just slow the loss of wildlife in our beautiful State they must be accompanied by tighter land clearing laws, an end to native forest logging on public land and more ambition to protect nature in the face of urban development,” Ms Dickson concluded.

ENDS. Media contact: Dr Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist

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