With the NSW election just over a week away, the community is being bombarded with both promises and warnings by political parties and their candidates as well as by independents. Unsurprisingly the promises are to encourage people to vote for a particular party or candidate and the warnings are about not to vote for the other mob or disaster will strike.
I attended a state election candidates’ event in Grafton several weeks ago and heard both promises and warnings from the four candidates (three
representing political parties and one independent) who were seeking to become
the Clarence MP. Some environmental
issues were discussed and I was heartened to hear that all candidates were
concerned about the Clarence River and opposed any mining in its extensive and
fragile catchment. That was the only issue on which they all agreed. Since that event another four candidates have emerged so that the state electorate of Clarence now has eight candidates in the March 25 election.
Our new state government has many challenges ahead of it on the environmental front.
NSW is facing accelerating biodiversity loss. Many people are aware of this in relation to iconic species like the Koala which is threatened with extinction in NSW by 2050 if effective decisive action does not halt its decline. But biodiversity loss affects all species across all ecosystems – not just the iconic ones. Our three levels of government - local, state and federal - are responsible for decisions and legislation which are accelerating species decline.
So what needs to be done at the state government level? One of the really major improvements would be protection of existing healthy natural habitat from degradation – for example forests, natural\grasslands, wetlands or estuarine habitats. This means broadscale land-clearing that is currently happening in NSW must be halted and backed up with effective monitoring and compliance procedures.
Another major improvement would be taking into account the cumulative
impact of the many apparently small actions or developments on patches of
biodiversity across the landscape. This
has been referred to as “death by a thousand cuts” and while it is something
dismissed by politicians and bureaucrats, it is having an accelerating impact on our biodiversity.
Protection of habitat is the key. Funding must be directed towards this basic need – not at cosmetic, feel -good projects that do not address the basic problem - continuing habitat loss.
- Leonie Blain