The NSW government’s proposed strategic land use policy will leave the state’s most critical wildlife habitat and natural areas open to destructive mining and gas development, according to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
The proposed policy allows mining companies to buy their way into highly sensitive natural areas, by allowing mining and gas development to go ahead in these areas, provided that the destroyed habitat is ‘offset’ elsewhere.
“The policy proposals currently on the table will not deliver on the government’s election promise to maintain critical environmental assets by placing sensitive areas off limits to mining and gas extraction," said Pepe Clarke, NCC Chief Executive Officer.
“Carefully mapping the most important wildlife habitat in the state, only to allow it to be destroyed by mining, is bizarre and totally unacceptable. The Government must recognise these are natural areas too precious to destroy and impossible to replace.
“The government’s strategic planning proposal does not apply to exploration activities, despite the fact that exploration activities can have significant impacts on the environment in their own right.
“The NSW government’s proposed approach to strategic land use planning does not reflect the balance between mining, agriculture and conservation promised by the Coalition in its election policy.
“We cannot accept a policy that does not provide certainty for mine‐affected communities and genuine protection for wildlife, forests, rivers and wetlands.
“Environmental and agricultural stakeholders have become increasingly frustrated with the government’s strategic land use planning process, as their repeated calls for the government to honour its promise to place sensitive areas off limits to mining have fallen on deaf ears.
“The State government must not turn its back on its promise to protect natural areas and local communities from the destructive impacts of unprecedented expansion in coal and gas development.
“This policy proposal must be withdrawn immediately, and replaced with a commitment to provide real protection for local communities, farmland, water and natural areas,” Mr Clarke said.
Front page image: This Eastern Pygmy Possum was found by scientists during a recent wildlife survey of the Pilliga forest. It is one of at least 22 endangered animal species under threat from a large-scale coal seam gas mining proposal in the Pilliga.