Uncertainty over NSW's new land management laws

New land management laws that came into effect in New South Wales last week (August 25) under the Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 (LLSA Act) have been criticised for lack of certainty for land holders and for the potential for accelerated loss of habitat and biodiversity.

The new codes are intended to reduce red tape for farmers wishing to clear their land, while introducing bigger fines for people caught breaking the rules.

At this stage, the regulatory maps which identify important land for conservation are not available and until they are there is a risk that land-owners might unwittingly breach the codes and that species and habitat could be lost as land is cleared without reference to the regulatory maps.

As part of the suite of changes, NSW Government has committed $240 million over five years to private land conservation and an additional $70 million each year in ongoing funding to the new system.

The Biodiversity Conservation Trust will be established to manage the $240 million private land conservation program, overseen by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust Board.

The Biodiversity Conservation Trust Board consists of:

  • The Hon Robert Hill AC (Chairman) – Mr Hill is a former Commonwealth Government Environment Minister and a former Permanent Representative to the United Nations for Australia. He is a member of the Asia Pacific Board of The Nature Conservancy and a Governor of WWF Australia. He Chairs the Cooperative Research Centre on Low Carbon Living at UNSW.

  • Virginia Malley (Deputy Chair) – Ms Malley is a non-executive director of Perpetual Superannuation Limited, a member of the Clean Energy Regulator and a former director of the Nature Conservation Trust. She has 30 years’ experience in the investment and banking sectors, as well as in conservation and environmental initiatives.

  • The Hon Gary Nairn AO – Mr Nairn became the Chairman of the Mulloon Institute following a 12-year term as the Federal Member for Eden-Monaro. He has extensive experience as a surveyor and he was the inaugural Chairman of the Northern Territory Planning Commission and on the board of the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority.

  • Renata Brooks – Ms Brooks is currently a Commissioner of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and was previously Deputy Director General, Land and Natural Resources, in the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

  • Russell Taylor AM – Mr Taylor is on the Council of the University of Technology, he is a senior Indigenous leader on a number of boards including The Australian and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, and he was a member of the Nature Conservation Trust.

  • Duncan McGregor – Mr McGregor is an environment and planning law specialist. He is a former partner and remains a Legal Consultant at MinterEllison. He was the inaugural Chair of the Commonwealth Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee as part of the Carbon Farming Initiative.

The reforms commit to the 43 recommendations of the Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review, which the NSW Government commissioned in 2014, and drew on feedback received during an extensive three-year consultation process with key stakeholders and the community.

An additional 65 Local Land Services staff will be employed to administer the program on the ground.

Labor's environment spokeswoman, Penny Sharpe, was quoted in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying: "Under a Labor government, the current laws will not stand. Labor will return environmental protection to land clearing and biodiversity laws. We will do this with scientists, farmers and environmentalists."

More information about the NSW land management reforms are at https://www.landmanagement.nsw.gov.au/

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