Media release

Scientists and community groups unite to stop Napthine’s flawed land clearing laws

Sunday 8 December 2013

 More than 100 respected ecologists and scientists have joined forces with a 70 strong force of local conservation groups to push for the overturning of Victoria’s new land clearing laws.

“Our remaining bushland and the threatened species it protects are part of what makes Victoria so special,” the Victorian National Parks Association’s native vegetation campaigner Yasmin Kelsall said today.

We need to ensure the laws governing how we manage these areas are not simply one-way tickets to fast-tracked development at the expense of native habitat.

“The planned new regulations are deeply flawed.”

In a bid to overturn the new regulations more than 170 ecologists and local conservation groups have signed a joint statement calling for a rethink by the Napthine Government.

Andrew Bradey, president of the Environmental Farmers Network, today warned that the new land clearing regulations could put at risk some of Victoria’s most vulnerable native species.

“Victoria is the most cleared state in Australia, yet these new regulations pave the way for more clearing by making it easier and cheaper to clear,” he said.

“These new regulations place an extremely low value on scattered paddock trees and completely disregard the role native vegetation plays in preventing erosion, improving water quality and controlling water tables.

“They will dramatically change Victoria’s landscape through increased land degradation resulting in reduced agricultural productivity.”

The new regulations have been under development for two years and are expected to be introduced any day.

Almost 80 per cent of the 200 submissions received as part of the consultation process raised these concerns but have been largely disregarded in the final regulations.  

The joint statement echoes concerns from Victoria’s independent Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, which recently released the Victoria State of the Environment Report 2013 recommending that the proposed native vegetation regulations be amended.

The 105 ecologists and scientists as well as 70 community-based environment groups from across Victoria who have signed the joint statement are concerned that the new regulations will lead to more land clearing, are based on flawed computer models, will damage threatened species habitat and remove the need to avoid clearing.

They have called on the State Government to return to the drawing board and create a system that protects the environment.

The director of Victoria’s Environment Defenders Office, Brendan Sydes, fears the new regulations suffer from an over-reliance on maps and computer models instead of on-site expert ecological surveys.

“This is really worrying because the mapping is often coming up wrong,” he said today.

“We received more than 100 examples of where the mapping fails to show important areas of endangered vegetation or threatened species. Under the new policy these areas could be cleared with little or no legal recourse.”  

Artur Muchow from the Middle Yarra Landcare Network fears the changes could undo years of Landcare work.

"Groups from our Landcare Network are really concerned that most of the natural vegetation in our local area shows up as low risk for clearing on the government’s new maps. This means we will see more and more clearing counteracting the good work our members do."

The joint statement calls on the Victorian Government to:

  • Dump its new land clearance policy and develop stand-alone legislation for native vegetation.  
  • Drop the requirement to rely on modeled data and allow for on-site surveys.
  • Set a statewide vision for biodiversity and native vegetation.
  • Make the State Government accountable to the same rules as private land managers.
  • Consider native vegetation upfront in any planning process or land management initiative.
  • Provide better support for local government, which will be burdened with extra work under the new system

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