Law changes welcomed by farmers, cursed by greens

THE announcement by the NSW O'Farrell Government that native vegetation laws will be simplified for the benefit of landholders has been praised by farmers but cursed by environmentalists.

In a keynote address delivered to a National Party conference at Bathurst last Friday, Deputy NSW Premier Andrew Stoner announced a comprehensive overhaul of the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act and related biodiversity legislation.

Mr Stoner told the conference that under the former Labor government the rules governing land clearing had become a "patchwork of laws, fragmented and rigid and overly complex, which has had the perverse effect of limiting both environmental and economic outcomes".

"It is time to end this nonsense," Mr Stoner said.

The announcement was immediately praised by NSW Farmers president Fiona Simpson, who said the move may "form the basis of achieving truly balanced legislation".

Richmond Valley Mayor, Teresa Creek landholder, and National Party member Ernie Bennett agreed, saying: "Farmers have been calling for a review of these laws for some time."

Cr Bennett said the laws and red tape surrounding land management restricted people in what they could do.

"Most people believe that if they have freehold title they believe they can make their own decisions," he said.

"Every farmer I know looks after their country for the benefit of the children and their family. They are managing it for a long-term outcome.

"Nobody is trying to destroy their property."

Mr Bennett admitted that in the past there had been some over-clearing of native vegetation but that farmers now had "gone past that".

Meanwhile Byron-based North East Forest Alliance spokesman Dailan Pugh said the announcement was a "black day" for native forests and woodlands on the Northern Rivers.

"The NSW Government is now intending to gut protection for native plants and animals by allowing the bush to be logged and thinned without constraint and to facilitate its clearing for agriculture," he said.

"When combined with the slashing of environmental protections allowed in council plans and the proposed removal of the environment from the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, it is a blueprint for open slather on our native bush and its inhabitants.

"These changes are all about winding back environment protections and returning to the bad old days of indiscriminate logging and land clearing."

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