Wednesday, 19 June 2013


The NSW Government is planning extensive changes to the state's planning system.

Before the election which brought them to government, Mr O'Farrell's party promised to improve the planning system by repealing the Labor Government's  Part 3A of the Planning Act and give local communities more say in planning matters. (Part 3A gave the Planning Minister sweeping powers to approve developments.)

However, more empowerment to local communities, to ordinary people, is another promise that the NSW Government has reneged on.  Certainly Part 3A of the Planning Act has been abolished but something far more extreme is being put in its place.

What the Government is proposing is clearly defined in the planning White Paper, A New Planning System for NSW.  The White Paper is currently on exhibition with people able to comment on it until June 28th. 

Some of the measures which the Government wants to introduce are listed below.

  • Key planning decisions on land use will be given to unelected regional bodies dominated by Ministerial appointees.
  • Up to 80% of developments will be approved in 10 to 25 days without any community notice or input.
  •  Local councils will be forced to deliver unpopular planning decisions made at a state and regional level. 
  • Both heritage and environmental protections will be further reduced. 
  • Strategic Compatibility Certificates (SCC) allow the Director-General of Planning, the chief Planning bureaucrat in NSW,  to "certify that specific development on specific land  is permissible... despite any profhibition on the carrying out of the development" in a Local Plan. 
  • The Planning Minister may declare a development a State Significant Development (SSD).  The criteria for such decisions (if indeed criteria exist) have not been revealed.
  • The use of developer-paid private certifiers to assess and approve the majority of developments will be expanded.

Late in 2012, commenting on the Government's planning reforms, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) raised concerns about the risk of corruption. ICAC pointed out that taking powers away from local councils and handing them to state officials does not fight corruption.  "There is no reason to suppose that a minister or state-level planning official is any more or less susceptible to corruption than a local councillor or professional planning officer."  (ICAC Submission on NSW Planning Reforms, Sept. 2012)  Indeed the ICAC hearings earlier this year into the granting of coal mining leases should have made the Government re-think this.  But perhaps the Government believes that such corruption could never happen with Coalition ministers!

In the Paper the Government pays lip-service to "sustainable" development but has quite deliberately rejected the important concept of "ecologically sustainable development".  It is  obvious that the natural environment will suffer severely if the Government's plans are implemented. 

Interestingly, there is no consideration in the proposals for meeting the challenges of climate change. It would seem that the suspicion about this Government being climate change "deniers" is being confirmed.  Surely it's not just a case of incompetence and forgetting about the issue!
There is widespread community concern about the further centralisation of planning powers in the hands of the Minister for Planning.  The Better Planning Network (BPN) is a group of volunteers which was formed in 2012 to monitor the NSW Government's approach to changes to planning legislation.  There are currently 400 groups around the state which are affiliated with with the BPN.  

The NSW Government's White Paper focuses on economic development and centralised control to the exclusion of social and environmental matters.  If the proposals become law, developers become the big winners and the general community and the natural environment will suffer.

Friday, 14 June 2013


In a Media Release on 13th June the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) called on the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to intervene to convince the NSW Government to stop logging core Koala habitat, this time in Koreelah State Forest near the juncture of the Border and Great Dividing Ranges, 15 kilometres north-west of Woodenbong.

Spokesperson for NEFA, Dailan Pugh, said a weekend audit of Koreelah State Forest again found a Koala High Use Area that had been logged in contravention of the prescriptions mandated under the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement, signed by both State and Federal Governments in 2000.

"On Sunday we randomly selected one hectare that had already been logged and thoroughly searched around the 36 Tallowwood and Grey Gum trees and stumps within it for Koala scats. Despite our searching being hampered by logging debris, in one area we located one tree with 30 Koala scats from a mother and baby under it and 3 other sequential trees with Koala scats under them.This area thus qualifies as a Koala High Use Area that should have had a 20m buffer placed around it and been excluded from logging.

"Not one of the trees we searched had been searched by anyone before us, despite Forestry Corporation being legally required to thoroughly search 100 trees within this same area for Koala scats before logging and to protect Koala High Use Areas.

"Based on our random sample it is evident that many other Koala High Use Areas are likely to have been logged, with others about to be logged.

"The North East Forest Alliance undertook a reconnaissanceof Koreelah on 10 May and wrote to Mr Nick Roberts, Chief Executive Officer, Forestry Corporation of NSW, complaining that nobody appeared to be searching for Koala scats.Both he and the supposed Environmental Protection Authority denied our concerns.

"Last August we found 4 Koala High Use Areas in Royal Camp State Forest, one was being actively logged and three were about to be logged.While we convinced the NSW Ministers for the Environment and Primary Industries to intervene to stop logging those areas they allowed it to continue in an adjacent area.When we found another high use area logged the Ministers allowed the logging to continue into yet another Koala High Use Area.

"Koalas have deserted all the logged High Use Areas we have found and the Forestry Corporation is actively targeting the mature feed trees they rely on.

"Given the EPA's failure to take action in relation to Royal Camp almost a year later, it is not surprising that Forestry Corporation continue to log without looking while the responsible NSW Ministers turn a blind eye.

"The Commonwealth relies upon the Regional Forest Agreements to satisfy their obligations to protect the nationally vulnerable Koala.Given that NSW refuses to implement the prescriptions intended to protect core Koala habitat Tony Burke must now intervene to provide the urgently needed protection the Koala deserves," Mr. Pugh said.

Fauna expert, David Milledge, who surveyed the area, stated "My records of Albert's Lyrebird and Koala indicate that the prescriptions that should have been implemented were not. I consider that adequate and seasonally appropriate surveys (including Koala mark-up searches) should be undertaken before further logging occurs". 

NEFA's Koreelah State Forest Audit

Monday, 10 June 2013


Since it was elected the NSW Government has made a number of disastrous environmental decisions.  Many of these decisions are a direct result of its desire to oblige the minority Shooters and Fishers Party which has two members in the Legislative Council - a desire which is based on the Government's need for these members' voting support in the upper house.

Last year the Government, at the behest of the Shooters and Fishers Party,  passed a bill allowing 11 species of native duck to be hunted on private land. This overturns the 1995 ban on duck hunting in NSW, a ban resulting from strong campaigning by those concerned with the cruelty of this activity.

In justifying the re-introduction of duck hunting, the Government claims that ducks can only be shot for the purposes of  'sustainable agricultural management', to prevent them from damaging rice crops.

Yet one of the ducks listed for slaughter is the Pink-eared Duck. The Pink-eared Duck does not eat rice and actually preys on insects that are major rice pests. As it is not a threat to 'sustainable agricultural management', it should be removed from the list.

It is quite obvious that the NSW Government, which has in the past claimed its decisions on environmental matters are "science-based",  did not bother to subject the Shooters and Fishers duck wish list to proper scientific scrutiny. This is surely another indication of the Government's enthusiasm for kow-towing to the Shooters and Fishers.

Will the NSW Premier admit the Government got it wrong?  Will he remove the Pink-eared Duck from the Shooters and Fishers kill list?