Native Vegetation: An Update
the environment, eg, due to lapsed consents (ie, approved but never cleared), removal of isolated paddock trees may cover less than ten percent of the area approved.
In August 2002 the Auditor-General released an audit report on the regulation of native vegetation clearing. The audit concluded that no single government agency is authorised to lead a whole of government response to the problems affecting native vegetation, and no agency can be held accountable and answerable for the state of native vegetation in NSW. 3
The audit noted that the Native Vegetation Conservation Act gave emphasis to the development of native vegetation conservation strategies and regional vegetation management plans. However, some four and half years after the Act commenced, objectives, targets, strategies and plans, all of which are designed to protect and preserve native vegetation, were still to be finalised. The implications for these delays were identified as follows:
Consents for land clearing are being issued without regional vegetation management plans in place;
Policies, including a national commitment to ‘no net loss’, and concepts such as inappropriate clearing, have been interpreted and applied differently in different regions;
These differences are seen by landholders as unfair and lacking transparency;
Many regional vegetation management plans have been developed without the guidance of catchment blue prints, a strategic framework, objectives or targets;
There has been limited assessment of socio-economic impacts.4
With the release of the audit report various stakeholders declared that it justified their criticisms of the Native Vegetation Conservation Act and the Department over the years. For instance, the NSW Farmers’ Association stated that the report proved what they have been saying for years – that the NSW Native Vegetation Conservation Act is ‘inefficient, ineffective and unworkable’. The Association’s Conservation and Resource Management Chair, Rob Anderson, stated:
Excessive regulation was never going to achieve the environmental results that the community is looking for. The management of natural resources needs to be a cooperative effort with the people who know the most about the land, and that's farmers….The Auditor-General is recommending that due regard should be given to socio-economic impacts of the Act, something that the Association has been lobbying strongly for. The report also states that self-regulation should be considered in many areas of NSW, recognition that farmers are the best placed to manage their land. Farmers have set aside more than 1.7 million hectares for native flora and fauna sanctuaries in cooperation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, almost 20
Audit Office of New South Wales, New South Wales Auditor-General’s Report, Performance Audit, Department of Land and Water Conservation, Regulating the Clearing of Native Vegetation. August 2002, at 17.
Audit Office of New South Wales, New South Wales Auditor-General’s Report, Performance Audit, Department of Land and Water Conservation, Regulating the Clearing of Native Vegetation. August 2002, at 30.