Deputy Premier John Barilaro has conceded to Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party MLC Mark Banasiak that the new Koala State Environment Protection Policy (SEPP), released under the radar in December 2019, will inflict unnecessary financial damage on rural land holders, forestry and timber workers, and farmers.
The policy is so flawed, the Deputy Premier admitted in a Budget Estimates hearing that misinterpreted scientific research was used which now allows areas that have not seen koalas for 18 years to be locked up into environmental zoning and core koala habitat zones, and the mapping used to guide the new policy is a predictive mapping system, as opposed to a field verified mapping system.
The areas that can be locked up can include state owned parks and reserves, forestry and timber operations, and private land.
“They have set the bar so low when it comes to defining what is koala habitat that almost every regional and rural parcel of land could be caught under this, including farmers with open pasture.
“Mr Barilaro conceded his governments planning policy on koala’s unnecessarily hurts regional and rural NSW. He admitted it was wrong and it would hurt our timber industry and rural landholders.
“The policy needs to be scrapped and rewritten without corrupted science.
“People’s livelihoods and their community’s economic stability hang in the balance,” said Mr Banasiak.
Despite the Deputy Premier’s admittance that the policy is flawed and dangerous to rural communities, it went into effect on 1 March, with sections in the policy putting the onus to disprove unfounded sighting of koalas on the landholder, with no mechanism in place to appeal a decision.
“I have been inundated with phone calls and cries for help from people that will be impacted by this. Multi-generational timber industry workers will lose successful businesses and will be worth nothing because of this policy.
“The Deputy Premier seems to think this can be improved within the guidelines. I believe its critically flawed, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
“After drought, fires, flood and corona virus within such a short period, rural NSW needs a helping hand, not another kick in the guts,” said Mr Banasiak.