From this month Ku ring gai joins Village Voice with a column from Friends of Ku ring gai Environment (FOKE).
Friends of Ku ring gai Environment (FOKE) is calling on the NSW Government to withdraw its Biodiversity Extinction Bills. These proposals, if passed by the NSW Parliament, will be a disaster for protecting NSW’s biodiversity. Instead they will increase wildlife extinction, not only for rural NSW but also for environmentally sensitive urban areas such as ours in Ku ring gai.
In its recent submission FOKE formally called on the NSW Government to withdraw its Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 and Draft Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016. It has also met with Member for Davidson Jonathan O’Dea, calling on him to reject the Bills that open the gates to land clearing, when scientists know that it’s a key driver of extinction.
FOKE supports Stand Up For Nature (standupfornature.org.au) which has publicly rejected the NSW Government’s new environment laws. Stand Up For Nature is an alliance of many environment groups including the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and the National Trust of Australia (NSW). Together they have received more than 5,500 submissions of support which indicates just how seriously the community opposes the NSW Government’s proposals.
Instead FOKE calls on the NSW Government to fulfil its promise to ‘enhance the state’s biodiversity for current and future generations’. The Government’s Bills appear to be more about fast-tracking land clearing and property development than biodiversity conservation.
As part of the 2016 National Trust Heritage Festival, FOKE ran a series of heritage and environment walks as well as the forum ‘Biodiversity Matters. Ku ring gai Matters’. Ku ring gai Mayor Cheryl Szatow highlighted Ku ring gai Council’s commitment to protecting the environment; Lions Club Community Service to the Environment Recipient Janet Harwood highlighted the importance of protecting Ku ring gai’s rare biodiversity for a future city of Sydney, and Emily Ryan, Outreach Director, Environmental Defenders office (EDO) NSW explained how the NSW Government’s proposed biodiversity legislative and policy package would remove many of NSW’s long-held environmental protections, and represents a serious backward step for environmental law and policy in NSW.
Ku ring gai’s biodiversity has already been under enormous pressure from the flawed 10/50 code which has seen an unprecedented number of Ku ring gai’s canopy trees removed, under the guise of reducing bushfire risk.
Now the NSW Government’s biodiversity bills will drastically threaten our bushland and trees through its flawed ‘offsetting’ provisions. This allows for developments that might otherwise be refused because of their negative impacts on the environment. Developers will no longer be limited to the ‘like for like’ principle. Instead they’ll be allowed to substitute entirely different vegetation and even be able to pay into a fund for destroying a site.
FOKE has serious concerns about the misuse of offsetting, as in the case of Sheldon Forest that has recently become a biodiversity offset site, but then Ku-ring-gai Council excised off an area in this rare Blue Gum High Forest for recreational land.
_____________________________________________________________________Kathy Cowley is the President of Friends of Ku ring gai Environment (FOKE), a community group which proudly promotes the natural, built and cultural heritage of Ku ring gai. For more information visit www.foke.org.au.