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Land Clearing and Logging in New South Wales May Impact Future Water Security

Despite calls from various community groups and politicians and policy being developed in Victoria and New South Wales to end native land clearing, the future of New South Wales' forests remains under threat. The most recent report from the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), released in December 2022, has highlighted that the 30 year ongoing decline of New South Wales' native forests will lead to "major implications for future water security in NSW”. The report also warned the NSW government against "business-as-usual management approaches and reactive policy decision making”, suggesting that this would lead to “sub-optimal outcomes at best, or ecosystem and industry collapse under worst case scenarios”.

A cleared area of trees with logs and timber scattered on the ground with the text "Logging in NSW" foregrounded.

In 2021 it was reported by the WWF that Australia remains one of the world's hotspots for deforestation, with Eastern Australia being placed in a list alongside Colombia, Laos, Mozambique and Peru for areas with "medium" rates of deforestation.

An earlier report from the NRC, released in 2020 but delayed by the government for more than 6 months, stated that land clearing rates had increased over 1300%. The report also highlighted that with the announcement of new laws approved by the NSW Liberal National government, then-Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, had stated that for every hectare of land cleared under the new plan, between 2 and 4 hectares would be conserved and managed in perpetuity. Aslan Shand for The Echo reports that these earmarked lands have not been protected.

Further issues were highlighted within the 2020 report including that:

  • As a result of regulation loopholes which allow for the thinning of native vegetation and expansion of pastures, bushland and wildlife in 9 out of 11 regions were now at a higher risk

  • At the time of release, regulatory maps, which were an essential aspect of new government policy, still had not been released 2 years after the promised delivery date

  • No form of effective compliance or monitoring to ensure the conservation and biodiversity laws are being followed

Chief Executive of the Nature Conservation Council said the report was a "damning assessment" of the government's handling of environmental policy:

"This report is alarming because land clearing is a key threat pushing most of the state’s threatened species towards extinction. Koalas and other vulnerable species are being smashed from every direction, by bushfires, drought, logging and land clearing. We also know that trees are a proven way to remove carbon from the atmosphere – carbon that is slowly cooking the planet and putting our future prosperity in grave danger."

A spokesman for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA), Dailan Pugh, suggested that it was clear why the government delayed the report's release:

"This report on land-clearing gives another damning assessment of NSW’s land-clearing free-for-all, it is no wonder the government suppressed it for so long...The NRC’s damning review shows that land-clearing has skyrocketed, the promised off-setting is not being implemented, Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity Value are not being protected, the regulatory map has not been released, and that land-clearing represents a biodiversity risk across north-east NSW."

Sources & Further Reading

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