You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

NSW land-clearing bills pushed through

AAP logoAAP 9/11/2016

Controversial changes to the NSW's land clearing laws have been introduced to parliament amid fears the legislation will destroy environment protection in the state.

The biodiversity legislation repeals the existing Native Vegetation Act, which was designed to prevent mass land clearing.

Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water Niall Blair says the state's farmers have been crying out for the changes, which allow them more freedom to clear their land without having to find equivalent areas of offsets.

"Farmers should be able to be productive and profitable while still working to improve the environment - these reforms will finally allow them to get on with doing that," Mr Blair said.

Conservation groups argue the reform package will significantly weaken wildlife, soil and water protections in the state, including putting 2.2 million hectares of koala habitat at risk.

"Only 9 per cent of the bushland we have left is in good condition - the rest has been degraded by overgrazing, feral animals, weeds and soil erosion," National Parks Association CEO Kevin Evans said.

"Yet the Baird government is going to allow 8 million hectares of bushland to be potentially cleared through these new laws. That's more than the entire national park system currently," he said.

Environment Minister Mark Speakman defended the reform package on Wednesday, saying it contains strong environmental safeguards including strong caps and limits on land clearing, offset requirements, exclusions and a record investment in private land conservation.

The move comes after the Baird government pushed through a new bill overhauling the management of Crown Land following a marathon debate which lasted till nearly 4am on Tuesday.

The upper house made a number of amendments during the eight-hour sitting but critics are still concerned the state government will be able to bypass checks and balances to sell land.

Opposition leader Luke Foley says the legislation leaves public land vulnerable to privatisation.

"The Baird government wants nothing more than to put a 'for sale' sign up on public land and amenities," he said.

"By avoiding scrutiny it hopes to avoid a public backlash."

Debate on the biodiversity reform package is expected to continue next Tuesday, a week before parliament rises for the year.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon