Councils of the Hunter urge State Government to delay introduction of flawed changes to biodiversity conservation legislation
Early in 2017, councils of the Hunter Region welcomed the opportunity to comment on proposed changes to biodiversity protection legislation, however have since been extremely disappointed with the result.
A review of the changes has revealed rather than maintaining and enhancing the environment, the package would contribute to the dismantling and undermining of long term and hard won protections our communities called for and the State Government previously supported.
The Hunter’s Councils, in association with Central Coast Council, therefore lodged a detailed submission pointing out the many weaknesses in the State Government’s approach and also warned of the consequences if it did not change course.
The concerns detailed in the submission related to the lack of time to provide adequate feedback; the weakening of local planning processes; the weakening of a raft of environmental safeguards; the failure to consider how the revised legislation would interact with other key Acts including the Mining Act and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act; the failure to consider impacts on Local Environmental Plans and Controls; and the imposition of an unmanageable administrative burden on already under resourced councils.
Unfortunately, according to Cessnock City Mayor and Chair of The Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils, Cr Bob Pynsent, there is little to suggest that the concerns raised have been addressed or are likely to be addressed by the Government as it rolls out its change package.
“The councils of the Hunter Region have a long history of biodiversity protection and it is highly concerning that we see legislation being introduced that directly contradicts the proven effectiveness of conservation efforts and reduces the ability of Councils to manage local biodiversity issues.”
“It would seem the State Government is not ready for the changes, nor does it understand how complex and risk laden they are,” added Cr Pynsent.
“Even more concerning,” Cr Pynsent stressed, “is the fact none of the promised eight staff positions to support councils in addressing the legislative change have been appointed. The changes begin in less than two weeks and there is no coherent support framework in place and no obvious mechanism to work through the many problems that are bound to arise.”
The Councils of the Hunter Region are therefore calling on the State Government to hold back its implementation of the Biodiversity Conservation reforms until it has thought through the possible impact of the changes and has appropriate plans and resources in place.
Regions are woefully unprepared to confidently address the new requirements and a potential crisis is facing NSW as a result of the State Government’s rushed actions and ill-considered legislative reforms.
There is an urgent need for the State Government to listen to the feedback it has received from a broad spectrum of stakeholders and act before it is too late.