Member for Northern Tablelands and NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has vowed to 'fix' legacy issues relating to the old native vegetation laws, but in the meantime has come out firing against those 'demonising' farmers following the release of the latest land clearing data.
Late last month, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) released state-wide land clearing figures for 2017-18, showing approved land clearing rates for crop, pasture, thinning was 27,100 hectares, up from 20,200 hectares in 2016-17.
The data was strongly condemned by activist groups and NSW Labor.
Mr Marshall said he would not abide the latest land clearing data being used to demonise the state's hard-working farmers.
"Our farmers are our best environmental stewards and shoulder responsibility for the majority of land management in this state. I will not stand by and watch as activists and ideologues try to paint our farmers as criminals," he said in a statement.
"In late 2017 the NSW Government introduced a new land management framework to ensure laws in the state better balanced environmental and agricultural outcomes.
"These new laws are working and are allowing farmers to actively and responsibly manage their land, while providing them with the flexibility they need to make sensible business decisions.
"The land clearing referred to in this report was lawful, and if anything, demonstrates NSW farmers are actively managing their land, which is the best thing for biodiversity in this state.
"Just take a look at the approved vegetation set asides and other activities funded from the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, that farmers are taking up."
Mr Marshall said there was a growing campaign designed to undermine land management laws in NSW.
"Activists and members of the opposition are using any excuse they get to discredit our land clearing laws and paint farmers as reckless environmental vandals," he said.
"I stand by our new land management framework and believe it strikes the right balance between preserving the environment and allowing farmers to manage their own land.
"What didn't work was the old Native Vegetation Act, introduced by the former Labor state government, which compulsory locked up swatches of productive agricultural land with no compensation to farmers and it all failed to improve biodiversity."
Mr Marshall said one of his key priorities was fixing legacy issues related to the repeal of Labor's Native Vegetation Act.
"This government did the right thing in repealing that piece of legislation but as it stands there are still some legacy issues that need to be worked through," he said.
"A considerable number of farmers, particularly in the state's North West, are facing prosecution and compliance action under the old Native Vegetation Act.
"In many cases, what they did then would now be legal under the much fairer and workable land management framework introduced by this government.
"I have met with many of these farmers and understand the considerable pain they must be going through, particularly as they simultaneously battle one of the worst droughts in living memory.
"I am of the firm view that compliance action should be halted if the actions undertaken by a landholder would now be permissible under the new land management laws.
"I've been working hard to stand up for these affected farmers and have had a number of frank conversations with the new Environment Minister Matt Kean about a way forward.
"[Last] week I took him on a tour to meet with affected landholders in the state's North West to show him first-hand the hardship this nonsense is creating.
"Our farmers deserve a common-sense solution and for their government to be sticking up for them at such a difficult time of severe drought."