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Native Vegetation: An Update

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This Briefing Paper is an update of the 2003 Briefing Paper Native Vegetation: Recent Developments. Since that paper, considerable changes have occurred in the regulation of native vegetation – including new legislation and regulations gazetted in November 2005.

In late 2002, a group of leading Australian environmental scientists (the Wentworth Group) developed the Blueprint for a Living Contintent, which outlined the changes necessary to ensure a sustainable future. In a further development, the Group proposed a radically new way of managing native vegetation in NSW. The Wentworth Model for Landscape Conservation had five interdependent components:

  • 1.

    Strengthening and simplifying native vegetation regulations, ending the broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation and protected regrowth;

  • 2.

    Setting environmental standards and clarifying responsibilities for native vegetation management which will, over time, create healthy rivers and catchments;

  • 3.

    Using property management plans to provide investment security, management flexibility and financial support for farmers;

  • 4.

    Providing significant levels of public funding to farmers to help meet new environmental standards and support on-ground conservation; and

  • 5.

    Restructuring institutions by improving scientific input into policy setting, improving information systems, and regionalising administration.

The Wentworth Group’s plan for native vegetation was favourably received by the NSW Government. In the lead up to the 2003 State election, then Premier Bob Carr announced a $120 million plan to help farmers protect native vegetation, and promised the formation of a Native Vegetation Reform Implementation Group. The Implementation Group made 46 recommendations on how to implement the Government’s native vegetation policies. Principal recommendations included: establish a Natural Resources Commission; establish a Natural Resources Advisory Council to provide a high level forum for stakeholder participation in natural resource management; establish Catchment Management Authorities to prepare and implement catchment plans; a new property vegetation plan system be developed.

In response, the Government introduced a suite of new bills to implement the new natural resource management regime. Legislation passed together in the second half of 2003 included: Catchment Management Authorities Act 2003; Natural Resources Commission Act 2003; and Native Vegetation Management Act 2003.

Demonstrating the complexity and competing interests of native vegetation management, regulations to the Native Vegetation Act 2003 took almost two years to develop, and were gazetted on 18 November 2005. The Briefing Paper reviews these regulations and the natural resource management regime implemented by the above Acts.

The Paper concludes on the challenges facing Catchment Management Authorities and the implementation of market based instruments to manage native vegetation.

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