NSW Oppositions Native Vegetation policy positive: NSW Farmers

31st January 2007The NSW Farmers’ Association today welcomes the NSW Opposition’s Native Vegetation policy announcement.

The association’s president, Jock Laurie, says, “The NSW Farmers’ Association has raised concerns about the current Native Vegetation regulations.

“The Opposition’s policy addresses those concerns.

“If implemented, it would see the system become less rigid and prescriptive.

“It would allow farmers to efficiently deliver the desired environmental outcomes, while operating sustainable businesses.

“At the moment, a farmer is obliged to go through a complicated approval process.

“He or she must offset and manage for conservation, many hectares of land, simply so he can remove a single hollow paddock tree to install water efficient centre point irrigation.

“The farmer should be allowed to plant a new tree to replace the old one, and attach nesting boxes on other trees.

“We support the Opposition’s proposal to change the definition of clearing so that it really does apply only to ‘broadscale’ clearing.

“As it stands, the law prevents clearing of individual plants without permission.

“This is an example of the red tape we are asking be abolished.

“We are calling for a practical assessment system, administered by the Catchment Management Authorities, that support farmers in sustaining biodiversity within productive farming landscapes,” Mr Laurie said.

The native vegetation laws, first passed in 1996, force farmers to manage parts of their land for conservation at no cost to the public purse.

“This cost shifting is having severe impacts on farm families and regional communities,” he said.

“That’s been documented in detail by ABARE and the Productivity Commission.

“ABARE in 2006 estimated the opportunity cost of the clearing laws across central NSW, at $1.1 billion.

“The association welcomes the Opposition’s call to pay farmers for conservation services.

“We would like the government to pay market rent to farmers when the law requires land to be managed to achieve public conservation outcomes,” Mr Laurie said.

“Farmers manage more than 70pc of the NSW landmass, providing vital environmental services to the general community including biodiversity conservation, and weed and feral animal control.

“Conserving, enhancing and achieving long-term sustainability of the natural environment is at the very core of farming,” Mr Laurie said.

SOURCE: The Land, NSW’s weekly rural newspaper

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