Greens battle over ‘destructive’ biodiversity law reform

NEW South Wales's biodiversity is under threat from a bundle of proposed reforms intended to replace existing environmental laws, according to upper house MP Jan Barham.

Among the Baird Government's plans is a change to the current ban on broad-scale native vegetation clearing unless it results in improved or maintained environmental outcomes.

In a seminar at Lismore this month, the Environmental Defenders Office said the clearing ban would be lifted; soil, water and salinity assessments would no longer be mandatory; and the "maintain or improve" criterion would be relegated to history.

The reforms also aim to "facilitate" ecologically sustainable development by allowing damages to biodiversity to be offset through vegetation management elsewhere.

"What the passage of the proposed legislation will really mean is that we will be able to destroy something in the naive or mistaken belief that we can re-create it somewhere else," Ms Barham said.

"As anyone with an understanding of science knows, that is impossible.

"Biodiversity and its unique chaos of plants, animals, organisms and micro-organisms happens in situ.

"We cannot put it somewhere else."

The Greens MP said North Coast residents had spent the past three decades trying to protect, preserve and enhance the area after two centuries of environmental destruction.

"There was widespread destruction of the Big Scrub, which covered the entire North Coast," she said.

"That amazing vegetation was lost and can never be replaced.

"We also lost red cedars and other large trees that can never be replaced.

"Once we lose them, they are gone. We have lost hundreds of thousands of years of growth forever.

"However, as a result of 30 years of dedication on the part of a community that respects and understands biodiversity, there has been a degree of landscape enhancement.

"Nature corridors have been reconnected and we have achieved landscape-wide improvement of the environment." -ARM NEWSDESK

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