Scrap the act: NSW Farmers

FRUSTRATED farmers are calling on NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker to go back to the drawing board with the contentious Native Vegetation Act.

NSW Farmers native vegetation spokesman Cameron Rowntree, from Walgett, told The Leader the act was “a dog’s breakfast” and was “being handled really badly by the department”.

His comments come after the state government announced a “comprehensive overhaul” of the act in June last year, with the final work under way on a new set of self-assessable codes that are designed to streamline applications for on-farm works.

They will also determine whether Local Land Services intervention is required and whether a property vegetation plan is needed.

Community consultation on the codes has been ongoing, but Mr Rowntree said three of the four codes had gone through four drafts since October last year.

He claims the process has been hijacked by bureaucrats and constant “tweaking around the edges” of the act in the past 20 years had done nothing to improve the situation for farmers.

He said farmers across NSW had been savagely restricted in clearing their land since the initial SEPP46, later succeeded by the Native Vegetation Act, came into effect.

“The whole thing should be thrown out, the department should be sacked and they should start again,” Mr Rowntree said.

In response, a spokesman for Ms Parker referred to comments made by her last year that “any changes to the native vegetation legislation will build on the broader changes the NSW government is making to the state’s planning laws”.

She said an update on the suite of landholder reforms, including new routine agricultural management activities, new bushfire-clearing zones and the first three new codes, were presented to the NSW government’s Land and Water Advisory Panel late last month.

“The first three proposed codes will then be discussed with NSW Farmers and other stakeholders, with feedback sought to enable a settled version of each code to be put out for public exhibition in March,” she said.

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said he would be raising the matter within Parliament, describing native vegetation laws as “convoluted and restrictive”.

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