Improving environmental outcomes and approving sustainable development are not mutually exclusive. Allowing greater flexibility in how biodiversity is managed will lead to improved productivity, investment, resilience and regional profitability and at the same time tangibly improve environmental outcomes.
Across the country, native vegetation legislation is destroying farmers competiveness and ability to manage their land sustainable and economically. The regulations are prohibitive to sustainable agricultural development and production.
Farmers are compelled to manage the environment as a form of public amenity without any form of compensation or regard for the social and economic implications to their business and community. Invariably the perverse outcomes are that the land is underutilised and adverse environmental outcomes such as weed and pest invasion result with a decline in productivity and financial resilience of landholders.
The impacts of this legislative constraint to responsible development flows through regional communities as agriculture struggles to optimise regional employment and underpin regional economic activity. There must be a triple bottom line approach to the management of native vegetation for farming and the environment to remain sustainable. Legislation has to be simplified.
If farmers are more profitable then the environment benefits from increased investment in, and utilisation of, sustainable management practices. Farmers have a long term vested interest in sustainable land management and legislation should be focused on supporting landowners not hindering them. Meaningful environmental reform can only be delivered with willing farmer participation.
Many areas of agricultural land are still comparatively under developed. Native vegetation legislation is preventing substantial areas of this land from being developed. This is amplifying the impact of drought now by severely limiting drought mitigation developments such as grain and fodder production developments and or cash cropping for additional financial resilience.
CountryMinded recognises that farmers are environmental stewards dependant ecosystems services for sustainable productivity. In response to the issues raised above CountryMinded will seek meaningful reform specifically in NSW that will:
- Repeal the Native Vegetation and Threatened Species Act in NSW and replace with more suitable legislation that allows greater flexibility and is triple bottom line focused
- Reduce the compliance burden and allow certain agricultural management to be self assessed including paddock trees in existing cultivation, INS management, thinning areas and managing productive grasslands.
- Private native forestry should be managed regionally and developed by farmers.
- Develop mosaic approach to landscape to promote connectivity for biodiversity and maintain riparian areas
- Land use change must be considered on soil type and topography. The market should decide what land use is appropriate. ie if growing wheat is more profitable than growing sheep then farmers should have the flexibility for change.
- Identify areas of high conservation value which are outside the public reserve system and national parks and offer farmers incentives to manage these areas for the common good.