At our Public Forum in May, David Morris, CEO of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), spoke passionately about the problems biodiversity currently face in NSW under the contentious Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 introduced into law this year.
The EDO’s key concerns include the expanded use of biodiversity offsets, removal of a legal requirement to ‘maintain or improve’ native vegetation, and the use of self-assessable codes to ‘de-regulate’ clearing native vegetation.
Prior to giving its consent for development of an area with high native vegetation, Council requires a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report. One of the tests in this report is that of Serious and Irreversible Impact (SII) on the ecological community. Fortunately, Ku-ring-gai’s Blue Gum High Forest and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest are already listed on the SII table. However, this could still be overturned by State Significant Development or Infrastructure works.
Outside of these few listed items, consent for clearing or development can be given where offset credits are used. These include Like-for-like replacement habitat up to 100km from the original site. Damningly, offsets also include monetary payments into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund!
The flexibility in the scope of offsets available provide ample potential for species to decline to critically endangered levels.
As residents we need to look at the big picture, if we allow trees and vegetation to be removed from our individual properties the overall impact will be huge for our ecological communities. One opportunity is to lobby Council to set up voluntary conservation agreements for high value communities on council owned land.
What To Do? Write to our state and federal MPs and demand changes to improve protections for endangered communities and biodiversity.