Native Vegetation: An Update
A reactive approach (responding to allegations) rather than a pro-active approach (based on systematic monitoring or audit); Lengthy response times and minimal use of enforcement provisions; An increasing amount of regulation which is complex, costly, and difficult to enforce; An Act that is difficult to enforce because of broadly worded exemptions; A lack of information on the use of exemptions. 14
In a formal response to the audit report, the Department of Land and Water Conservation noted that the development of a systematic monitoring program is advancing, with the goal being a program that will monitor clearing, revegetation and regeneration. The expense and time required to comprehensively map the vegetation of the State was also noted, with $17 million allocated to this task by the State Government over the period 1999 – 2006. The Department also noted that its Native Vegetation Act Compliance Policy is now publicly released, and the fact that alleged breaches of the Act are growing at 20 percent per annum largely reflects the increasing level of awareness of the Act and its requirements. 15
The Department of Natural Resources (formerly the Department of Land and Water Conservation) has a generic compliance policy that covers all the legislation the Department is responsible for – including the Native Vegetation Act 2003. The compliance policy is explained below. However, it is important to note that Catchment Management Authorities do not exercise enforcement actions for or on behalf of the Department. CMAs may be consulted by and liaise with the Department but they do not undertake any investigatory or prosecution functions for the Department.
The Department’s Compliance Policy notes that it undertakes three types of monitoring activities. 1. Detection The Department's detection activities include both aerial and ground survey, aerial photography and the use of satellite images (high resolution satellite imagery is used to monitor compliance with natural resource legislation across NSW). 2. Audit and Review of Approvals A large number of approvals (consents) are granted under relevant legislation in order to equitably share natural resources. The Department conducts audits and reviews to verify compliance with these approvals and to improve the quality and effectiveness of its approvals. 3. Reports of Possible Breaches The Department receives reports of alleged breaches from external sources including
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 47.
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 9.