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NSW environment going backwards, latest report

The latest NSW State of the Environment Report released in March, reveals the continued loss of native wildlife and widespread decline of the natural environment, noted the Queanbeyan Conservation Alliance (QCA).

“More native species are threatened with extinction, the condition of native vegetation is deteriorating and transport is now the major source of greenhouse gas emissions and rising,” QCA spokesperson Katrina Willis said

The State of the Environment Report shows that cuts to programs and staffing, a lack of data and a lack of commitment to addressing environmental concerns are responsible for worsening environmental conditions, said the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Penny Sharpe.

Alleged causes: staff cuts and cuts to science programs along with “extreme anti-environment sentiment within the National Party”

“The downgrading of environment within government, ongoing cuts to programs, the sacking of highly trained scientists, and extreme anti-environment sentiment within the National Party are all taking their toll,” said Sharpe.

Native vegetation loss a major finding of report, reflects on Queanbeyan’s EDE plans

The Queanbeyan Conservation Alliance has been a robust critic of plans to build a new roadway through native bushland and suburbs. “The findings of the report are particularly relevant to whether Queanbeyan City Council should approve the proposed Ellerton Drive Extension (EDE) through the eastern escarpment,” noted Willis.

“The report notes that habitat destruction poses the greatest risk to biodiversity, in particular the clearing of native vegetation and the impacts of invasive species, weeds, foxes and cats.

The condition of native vegetation is deteriorating, and clearing is the primary cause.

“Just nine percent of the native vegetation across NSW is considered to be in good condition. Yet in Queanbeyan, the city council is considering destroying native vegetation in good to moderate condition, including an endangered ecological community that is now rare in NSW and the ACT.

“Patterns of transport use are also a cause for concern. Gains in energy efficiency and increasing use of renewable energy are being undermined by the steady growth in greenhouse gas emissions from transport, where most journeys are made in private vehicles.

“Transport accounts for a rising share of NSW greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012-13, it was 19 percent. While there are public transport and active transport (cycling & walking) projects planned for Sydney, here in Queanbeyan there is no investment in public transport planned to address congestion caused by a growing population and the need for most people to travel to Canberra for work. Instead, the focus is on building roads such as the proposed EDE.”

Willis said the QCA is calling for a sustainable transport strategy before new road projects are approved and that close to 1200 people have signed a petition in support of that stance.

NSW State of the Environment Report signals alarming trends:

  • The Baird Government’s failure to attract renewable energy to New South Wales. More than 90 per cent of the state’s energy demand still being met by non-renewable sources (coal, gas and petroleum).
  • A backlog of 860 contaminated site sites reported in 2014 still waiting assessment.
  • Continued poor ratings for NSW greenhouse gas emissions. Forecasts are that emissions from the energy and transport sectors will continue to rise.
  • Continuing deterioration of the state’s soil quality – with 74 per cent of priority soil units being rated as poor or very poor for at least one soil degradation hazard.
  • Continued biodiversity loss, with 999 native species listed as threatened, an addition of another 10 species since 2012. The number of endangered species is now 54.
  • Only nine percent of the State’s native vegetation is in a good condition. Weeds now make up more than one-fifth (21 per cent) of the New South Wales’ flora.
  • Air quality for fine particles PM10 continues to be an issue particularly in regional New South Wales areas like the Hunter (mining).
  • River health throughout the state continues to deteriorate with none of the ten NSW catchments rated as being in ‘good’ condition. Close to a third of all native fish in the Murray-Darling Basin is listed as threatened with extinction.
  • Coastal, estuarine and marine environments have been extensively cleared with only one in five NSW environments retaining more than 90 per cent of their natural un-cleared vegetation.

“Weeds make up 21 per cent of the New South Wales’ flora.”

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