The Native Vegetation Act was introduced in 2003, replacing the former environmental protection legislation, to protect and manage native vegetation in the state of New South Wales.
The act aimed to conserve and enhance the state's biodiversity by protecting native vegetation and habitats for native fauna, encourage the re-vegetation of land, and prevent broad scale clearing of land unless it improved or maintained environmental outcomes.
In November of 2016 the NSW government announced its intention to repeal and replace the act with a new set of laws aimed at streamlining the approval process for land clearing. The new laws, known as the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, were passed by the NSW Parliament in 2017 and came into effect in August of that year. The Biodiversity Conservation Act consolidates the previous Native Vegetation Act with two other acts: the Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Nature Conservation Trust Act.
In April of 2020 land clearing in New South Wales had grown by more than 1300% percent since the new laws were enacted according to the Natural Resources Commission report. The report also found that the government had no effective monitoring or compliance system to ensure that the laws were being followed and enforced and that regulatory maps still had not been delivered two years after the promised delivery date.
Furthermore, the report highlighted that nine out of eleven regions in New South Wales were now at a higher risk for thinning of native vegetation for the expansion of agricultural land as a result of loopholes in the laws.
Chris Gambian, the Chief Executive of the Nature Conservation Council, said the report was damning assessment of what was proclaimed to be a signature reform:
‘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.”