NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service
times the area of native vegetation developed through controlled clearing. The best outcome for the environment will come from the Government working with farmers to ensure native vegetation is managed without the confusion that currently reigns. 5
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW stated that the audit report confirmed widely held fears that the State Government’s regulation of land clearing was unaccountable and aimless. The Council noted that both the statewide native vegetation conservation strategy and comprehensive bioregional targets for managing native vegetation had been withheld by successive ministers for two years while the pace of land clearing in NSW accelerated. NCC executive officer, Kathy Ridge, said:
No strategy, no targets, no data and next to no plans - no wonder the NSW government is being condemned. The documents and information that the Auditor General noted by their absence have been sitting on the desks of the last two Ministers for Land and Water Conservation in draft form for the last two years. They have been either unwilling or unable to put these strategies and targets into place, so it is up to the Premier to fulfil his government's obligation, both to the Parliament and the community, and release these documents. Land clearing approvals blew out by more than 18 percent last year, the third year in a row that NSW as seen an increase. That is not the mark of a government committed to addressing one of the most damaging environmental, social and economic issues facing the state. 6
With this background of native vegetation regulatory reform, a group of scientists began to think about how to manage native vegetation more effectively.
THE WENTWORTH GROUP OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS
In late 2002, a group of leading Australian environmental scientists convened at the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney. Adopting the name of ‘the Wentworth Group’, the Group developed the Blueprint for a Living Continent, which set out the changes they considered necessary to ensure a sustainable future. These were:
1. Clarify water property rights and the obligations associated with those rights to give farmers some certainty and to enable water to be recovered for the environment.
2. Restore environmental flows to stressed rivers, such as the River Murray and its tributaries.
3. Immediately end broadscale landclearing of remnant native vegetation and assist rural communities with adjustment. This provides fundamental benefits to water quality, prevention of salinity, prevention of soil loss and conservation of biodiversity.
“Time to start again on native vegetation” NSW Farmers’ Association, Media Release, 20 August 2002. See URL: http://www.nswfarmers.org.au
“Auditor General’s report – NSW government condemned on land clearing” NSW Nature
Conservation Council, http://www.nccnsw.org.au