Le­gal chal­lenge to land clear­ing laws

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Find A -

THE Na­ture Con­ser­va­tion Coun­cil of NSW is bring­ing a court ac­tion to chal­lenge the va­lid­ity of the Na­tive Veg­e­ta­tion Code 2017, which en­ables pri­vate land­hold­ers to carry out large-scale clear­ing of na­tive veg­e­ta­tion with­out ap­proval or en­vi­ron­men­tal assess­ment.

Rep­re­sented by the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fend­ers Of­fice, the NCC chal­lenge says there was a fail­ure by the Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries to get agree­ment from the Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment be­fore the Code was made.

The EDO claims there was an im­plied fail­ure of the Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment to act as cus­to­dian and guardian of the en­vi­ron­ment.

It also states that both min­is­ters failed to have re­gard for the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised le­gal prin­ci­ples of en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, “par­tic­u­larly the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional eq­uity and the con­ser­va­tion of bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity and eco­log­i­cal in­tegrity”.

“This chal­lenge is be­ing brought to up­hold the rule of law,” said David Mor­ris, head of the State EDO.

Mr Mor­ris said with the leg­is­la­tion of 2016, the gov­ern­ment spec­i­fied that the en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter must have an ac­tive role but the fail­ure to get con­cur­rence for this code and its re­lease be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion of Na­tive Veg­e­ta­tion Reg­u­la­tory Maps sug­gests it was cre­ated in a rushed man­ner.

“Con­se­quently, land clear­ing has been left to the dis­cre­tion of in­di­vid­ual land­hold­ers and it looks as though the Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment has been just a rub­ber stamp. Min­is­te­rial in­volve­ment in the mak­ing of del­e­gated leg­is­la­tion must be in ac­cor­dance with the law.

“Con­sid­er­a­tion of the le­gal prin­ci­ples of en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able devel­op­ment is a fun­da­men­tal re­quire­ment for the mak­ing of a code like this and ev­i­dence sug­gests this has not oc­curred.”

A spokesper­son for the Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries, Niall Blair, said: “The code forms an in­te­gral part of the gov­ern­ment’s bio­di­ver­sity re­forms, which have been subject to ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion, and bal­ances the rights of land­hold­ers with en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

“The code was pre­pared in re­sponse to the re­view by the In­de­pen­dent Bio­di­ver­sity Leg­is­la­tion Re­view Panel.

“The mat­ter is now be­fore the Land and En­vi­ron­ment Court and it is not ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment fur­ther at this stage.”

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