(Debate, 31 May 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
The National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Adjustment of Areas) Bill includes routine adjustments to national park boundaries to reflect actual areas of conservation as well as unnecessary and unacceptable loss of national park land at a time when we should be expanding the estate.
Australia has a shameful record of biodiversity loss with the highest rates of species loss among developed countries. In New South Wales 100 animals and plants have become extinct since European settlement and nearly 1,000 are at risk with 59 per cent of animals listed as threatened. Indeed last week I was briefed about the absolute dire situation of koalas in this state, particularly along the state’s coast.
We have lost over a third of our native vegetation and almost all of our rainforests.
National parks are the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation and if we fail to expand protections, we will lose much more. National parks provide essential habitat to the majority of our threatened species and they work best when they are large and well connected.
National parks are carbon sinks with significant sequestration capabilities. This role is becoming increasingly important with climate change and our need to meet national and international targets and commitments.
Only nine per cent of the state is protected under national park and many significant areas remain unprotected. Six bioregions and 49 subregions have less than five per cent of their area protected and 11 subregions have no protection at all. This government has been very slow to increase national park protection and this must be addressed.
The bill proposes revocation of over 350 hectares of national park declared land and downgrades 2,020 hectares of the Khappinghat Nature Reserve.
National park declarations are meant to be in perpetuity and maintaining and expanding the estate must be a priority.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service Revocation of Land Policy states that revocation of conservation areas and national parks should only occur as “an avenue of last resort and where no other practical options are available”.
While some revocations in this bill appear to adhere to this policy, such as the two in connection with successful Aboriginal land claims, it is unclear with others. Of particular concern is the revocation of 1.25 hectares of land from the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park for the expansion of a pistol club.
This revocation is absurd and is nothing more than a land-grab for private interests – likely connected with some deal with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to get unpopular legislation through – at the expense of environmental protection.
The government has said the land is small and degraded. This is beside the point. If degradation of the land is a problem, then the government should invest in its regeneration. Furthermore, I note that the land is on the perimeter of the park and land closest to the border in developed areas is usually the most degraded.
The compensation proposed is for high conservation land near Heathcote.
The two parks are far from each other and support different ecosystems. If the land at Heathcote is high conservation, why hasn’t it been protected already? Could there have been a delay to ensure it was available as compensation when the need arose? This would be an unacceptable approach to protection.
Real protection cannot be revoked and traded.
The bill sets a dangerous precedent that future deals could trade off protected land and I cannot support that.