New native vegetation bill ‘stupid’

LOCAL environmentalists have called for the state government to disregard a controversial native vegetation amendment bill, tabled by the Shooters and Fishers Party in June this year. 

Tamworth ecologist Phil Spark said the upper house bill was “stupid” given the Biodiversity Review Panel had already been established to examine the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act and parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act dealing with fauna and flora protection.

Mr Spark suggested the bill was insensitive in light of the recent tragedy at Croppa Creek, where Environment and Heritage officer Glen Turner was shot dead in late July, allegedly by wheat farmer Ian Turnbull over a land clearing dispute. 

“If anything, this event shows we need to be improving the legislation to remove the loopholes, making it clearer to comprehend, and inform farmers why the legislation is necessary,” Mr Spark said.

“Strong enforced laws, properly explained, would end the mixed messages that landholders have been getting and end illegal clearing.”

But Shooters and Fishers MLC Robert Brown said he had given notice of the bill in May, well before the shooting, and had agreed to run the bill in September rather than August in light of the “horrible incident”.   He said the NSW government had been “too slow off the mark” and the review would not deter the party from representing NSW Farmers. 

“My bill will not be held up because of that [the review],” Mr Brown said. 

“It’s a good bill. It knocks off the most onerous and unpalatable parts of the act. It is not about allowing broadscale clearing.” 

He was confident the bill – which is due to run in the week beginning September 9 or 16 – would go through the upper house unamended.

Mr Brown said minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water and National party member Kevin Humphries had indicated his support but the government would want to amend the bill in the lower house.

Member for New England Kevin Anderson told The Leader the Nationals had nothing to do with the Shooters and Fishers bill.

He confirmed the panel aimed to facilitate environmental conservation, support sustainable development and reduce red tape. 

An interim report will be lodged by the panel in mid-October, with a final report due in mid-December this year. 

Fairfax Media reported Liberal Party member and Environment Minister Rob Stokes was keen for the Biodiversity Review Panel to complete its findings.

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