Gary Dunnett, Executive Officer
This campaign update begins with actions by the NSW and Commonwealth governments that threaten the ability of NPA members to participate in conservation campaigns.
The NSW Government’s Right to Farm Act 2019 imposes three-year jail terms and financial penalties of up to $22,000 for unauthorised entry onto agricultural lands. The Act, which has been justified as a response to the ‘developing threat of vegan terrorism’, defines agriculture as including ‘a business or undertaking for forestry (including timber mills) or aquaculture’.
The new Act definitely applies to forestry sites and facilities on private land. It remains unclear whether it could also be applied against protestors when contractors are operating in State Forests.
Another disturbing feature of the Right to Farm Act is that it applies penalties to persons who ‘direct, incite, counsel, procure or induce the commission, on agricultural land, of an offence against (this Act)’. The potential consequences for conservation advocacy organisations takes us into uncharted waters.
Adding momentum to the NSW legalisation is the Prime Minister’s comments about ‘selfish and indulgent’ environmentalists who employ market tactics and encourage consumer choice. NPA remains fiercely non-partisan, but we must defend our right to conduct conservation advocacy, including expressing our views on businesses and projects we consider environmentally reckless.
National Parks are not for sale
Moving to our conservation campaigns, the last quarter has seen a concerted response by NPA branches and Park Management Committee to the walking track proposals for Ben Boyd, Kosciuszko and Tomaree National Parks. All three proposals required plan of management amendments to cover the construction of tracks and accommodation facilities and their exclusive use by commercial tour operators. All involve significant clearance of native vegetation, in the case of Kosciuszko through a previously undisturbed area of alpine catchment. Apart from raising concerns about the heavy environmental footprint of the proposals, NPA has argued against the restrictions on public access to the new campgrounds and their exclusive use by the clients of commercial tour operators. Our concerns have not been heeded to date by NPWS and we will continue to oppose this disturbing trend. We’ve adopted the banner ‘national parks are not for sale’ for this purpose.
Kosciuszko and Snowy 2.0
Kosciuszko National Park took centre stage in the national conservation debate in 2019. The Invasive Species Council has been leading Reclaim Kosci, a campaign to abolish the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act and implement humane control over the feral horse population, while NPA leds the Snowy 2.0 Doesn’t Stack Up campaign. Reclaim Kosci’s accomplishments include a formal debate in the lower house of the NSW parliament, where Environment Minister Matt Kean vigorously defended conservationists from a tirade by the Deputy Premier. The results of the aerial census of horse numbers are due soon and NPA will help Reclaim Kosci to develop a response on the new feral horse management plan.
NPA has exposed the unacceptable environmental impacts of Snowy 2.0 and dispelled the overstated energy and economic claims for the proposal. In addition to making a detailed submission on the 8,000 page Main Works EIS, in October we hosted a highly successful media event to launch the Snowy 2.0 Doesn’t Stack Up paper. Both documents are available at (https://npansw.org.au/npa/campaigns/protect-our-parks/kosciuszko-national-park/snowy-2-0/)
NPA Treasurer Ted Woodley and President Anne Dickson explained our reasons for opposing the project with great aplomb across television, radio, digital and print media. The launch opened the doors for further discussions with government, opposition and other parties, and exposed the depth of misgivings about the project by many academics, research institutions and industry associations. Make no mistake, Snowy 2.0 is the most damaging development ever proposed for a NSW national park, one that attempts to hide the true magnitude of its impacts on native vegetation, threatened species habitat and Indigenous heritage under a thin veil of dubious claims about contributions to the renewable energy sector. NPA by no means opposes the transition to renewables, but this proposal is the wrong project in a uniquely precious place.
Koalas, Forests and Fires
Our suite of forestry activities, the Great Koala Park, Alps to Coast, Sydney Koala Park and opposition to the remapping of old growth and rainforest forestry reserves, are all confronting the tragedy of the unprecedented fires that have decimated koala populations and vegetation communities we all thought were largely immune to the impact of fire. It is a stark reminder that our conservation efforts are taking place in the context of global climate changes that threaten the resilience and survival of our parks and wildlife. It is too soon to fully chart our response to the impacts of this spring’s fires, but there is no doubt we will need to adjust to a truly new world. An early priority will be publicly contesting the erroneous suggestion that a lack of prescribed burning in national parks is the cause of major fires.