When the NSW government released the draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill recently, one Blue Mountains couple was very concerned.
Winmalee’s Margaret Baker said she has “been lying awake at night worried” about the new Act.
Together with husband Mark they put a biodiversity conservation agreement on their property in 2012, to ensure it could never be developed.
But they believe the draft bill might change all that after their deaths and threaten the endangered animals and plants on their 96 acre property [38.84 hectares] – 95 per cent of which is covered by the agreement.
“It was one of the reasons we did it,” Mrs Baker told the Gazette. “To protect it long after we are no longer here.”
Their property has powerful owls and glossy black cockatoos, both endangered.
Blue Mountains Conservation Society vice president Tara Cameron said the Bill waters down current laws aimed at protecting wildlife and native bushland. She said the rules had been changed without consultation.
“Landowners entered into these agreements on the understanding that their properties under covenant could not be used by developers to ‘offset’ future development.”
“This is an appalling breach of trust.”
The Society says ten per cent of all threatened species in NSW can be found in the Mountains, home to 65 threatened animal species and 30 threatened plants, including some species not found anywhere else in the world.
“Currently we have a regulatory system where the impact of a development on native plants and animals is assessed, and then developments are either approved or refused, with the community having various public appeal rights in the courts. The Bill proposes a new regime where nearly all developments can be approved, as long as the biodiversity impacts of the development are offset.”
However Environment Minister Mark Speakman said the previous biodiversity laws “were not working for the environment or for farmers”.
“The very things they were designed to protect, biodiversity and threatened species numbers, were going backwards.
“The draft reforms are designed to better protect biodiversity and create the best possible outcomes for the environmental future of NSW.”
The draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill has been released for public comment until June 28.
The Blue Mountains Conservation Society and the Environmental Defenders Office are holding a free community information workshop on the new Bill on Monday, June 6, at the Conservation Hut in Fletcher St, Wentworth Falls. Details at www.bluemountains.org.au.