The NSW Government must conduct root-and-branch reform of the state’s Biodiversity Conservation Act and related vegetation clearing laws after a damning review found the law was failing to fulfil its “primary purpose of maintaining a healthy, productive and resilient environment, and is never likely to do so”. 
Environmental Defenders Office Special Counsel (Nature) Cerin Loane said: “It’s hard to imagine a more damning assessment of the state’s most important biodiversity laws.
“The laws are simply not doing what the public expect them to. The whole act needs to be overhauled to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and to stop further extinctions.
“Since the BCA came into effect, the rate of land clearing has increased over 30% and the number of threatened species and ecological communities has climbed to more than 1,000.
“Governments need to put nature protection first by overhauling these key laws and backing them in with adequate resourcing.”
The EDO supports the broad thrust of the Review Panel’s findings including recommendations to:
- give the Act primacy over competing pieces of legislation.
- fully involve First Nations Peoples in the design and implementation of policy and programs designed to conserve and restore biodiversity.
- amend the Act to proactively address climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems.
- address cumulative impacts of biodiversity loss and loss of ecosystem connectivity.
- guide and promote investment in conservation and restoration activities
- provide a single spatial tool to clarify regulatory expectations.
Ms Loane said: “We have known for some time that biodiversity in NSW is in trouble — consecutive State of the Environment reports have shown that biodiversity continues to decline.
“More and more species are being added to our threatened species lists and land clearing rates have risen sharply under the current framework.
“The Environmental Defenders Office has been highly critical of our current laws since they commenced six years ago.
“Inadequate safeguards, significant decision-maker discretion, and lax biodiversity offsetting rules have left our native species and natural landscapes at risk.
“The five-year review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act has shone a light on key failings of the Act.
“The independent expert panel, led by Dr Ken Henry, has found the current objectives of the Act obsolete, and unaligned with international ambition to halt extinctions and put nature on a path to recovery.
“The experts suggest a major reset of the Biodiversity Conservation Act and related laws is needed and we agree.”
 Independent Review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, NSW Parliament, 2023
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