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NSW government’s environmental record so far: so bad

with Steve Whan

Steve Whan
Steve Whan

Logging in national parks next? Marine parks reduced research and protection; biofuels put in limbo

The O’Farrell Government is gradually racking up a list of negatives when it comes to their environmental record.

They’ve really put their foot in it when it comes to the deal to allow recreational hunters to shoot in national parks. Now they have added to that with the Coalition members of a parliamentary committee voting to support a report that recommends logging in some national parks.

Both positions show a complete disregard for the basic philosophy of national parks, which is for preserving valuable natural areas and their flora and fauna for current and future generations. Allowing loggers and amateur hunters into national parks puts that valuable biodiversity at risk, not to mention other users.

So far the government’s efforts to let amateur hunters in have been delayed because of controversy over the Game Council; however, we know that the Premier’s commitment that hunting will be run ‘just like a hazard reduction burn’, is completely ridiculous.

We know also that the government is going to spend over $19 million administering hunting in national parks. This is $19 million which would be far better spent on professional feral pest control, which involves much safer professional shooters, trappers and baiting. Professional feral pest control could significantly reduce wild dog predation on sheep as well as on vulnerable native species.

National parks and wilderness will also now see trials of horse riding in some areas, including in the wilderness areas of the Kosciuszko National Park.

Strike 2: marine parks

The O’Farrell Government’s next environmental strike is their decisions on marine parks. Despite being controversial when it was introduced the marine park nearest to us, the Batemans Marine Park, has proven to be a great boost for recreational fishing as well as for conservation.

The O’Farrell Government makes a big deal of talking about basing marine protection decisions on science and yet consistently dismisses the scientists when they give findings the government doesn’t want to hear. The government has cut the staff who undertake the basic work on fish stocks in NSW waters, placed a moratorium on new marine parks, and reduced protections in existing parks – including for the threatened Grey Nurse Shark.

Strike three is on alternative energy. The Premier has made it absolutely clear that he would be happy not to see any more wind farms in NSW and true to his view, no new approvals (not already in the pipeline) have been given. Now I have always said there are right and wrong places for wind farms but a blanket stop is no way to promote alternative energy.

Then we see members who simply want to appeal to the NIMBY view of the world like the local member who recently bragged in his taxpayer-funded brochure about standing up to oppose the ACT Government developing a solar farm. Of course to top that off, NSW now has no mandated feed-in tariff for people with solar panels on their roof.

Backflip on biofuels hurts the bush

Strike four is the backflip on biofuels. The government, with the Nationals particularly vocal, came to office promising to continue Labor’s legislated plan to encourage biofuels in NSW, including ethanol from the by-products of starch production, sugarcane and, in the future, forest products.

That was what the role out of E10 was all about; it supported NSW farmers and many hundreds of direct jobs in regional NSW – as well as reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels and reducing particulate emissions.

Under pressure following media reports about pre-1986 cars being disadvantaged, the government backflipped, passing legislation to rule out replacing most unleaded fuel with E10, with the result that NSW will not reach its target of 6 percent ethanol by volume of fuel anywhere in the near future.

It’s an ordinary environmental record and something to think about before entrusting votes or preferences to Coalition candidates in the future.

Bush photo credit: Markfchristopher

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