Bushland Protection Workshop - 14 July 2018
Bushland Protection Workshop
Excavator  (Mark Baker)

Bushland Protection Workshop
Saturday, 14 July 2018
Mechanics Institute, Lawson

Over 40 people braved the cold to attend the Blue Mountains Conservation Society’s July workshop on Bushland Protection laws and codes. Participants were capably informed on the topic by Environmental Solicitor, Jemilah Hallinan from the Environmental Defenders Office.

Jemilah Hallinan EDO's Jemilah Hallinan  (Mark Baker)
It was explained that there is now a highly complex set of laws and codes relating to, but not necessarily regulating, land clearing in New South Wales [Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, the Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 and the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017]. It is evident that decisions about biodiversity survival are being made without the completion of important supporting structures such as accurate maps detailing what can and can’t be cleared, and assessment personnel and panels.

Of concern is the apparent secrecy that has been built into the legislation; it is aimed to protect the privacy of those wanting to clear land and to provide little information to other landowners and affected parties even to the point of not allowing them to comment on planned works or to appeal about land clearing decisions. Of great concern is the knowledge that threatened species and communities, apart from those that are critically endangered, now have no protection under the new legislation. Their possible destruction will now be assessed by the Development Application Process.

It is now very difficult for most people to work out exactly what is legal and which government agency should be doing something to stop or prosecute developers and property owners who may be carrying out unlawful activities such as cutting down trees in residential areas or removing large areas of native communities. However it is still worth reporting any activity that may potentially be unlawful to the Blue Mountains City Council and also to the Office of Environment and Heritage, particularly if threatened species or communities appear to be involved.

The basic message for those wishing to take action when you see suspicious bushland removal, whether it is a single tree or broad acreage clearing, is to:

  1. Document what you see especially the date, time and location; include photographs of the activity (though don’t trespass on the property). Photos of workers and trade names on vehicles can be quite useful.
  2. Report the incident immediately whatever the day or time to both the local council –
    • Blue Mountains City Council (4723 5000 from the lower mountains or 4780 5000 from the upper mountains; or email council@bmcc.nsw.gov.au), and to the
    • NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s Environment Line (131 555) or at info@environment.nsw.gov.au.
    Get a reference number for your reported incident.
  3. Follow up your phone call with a written statement, quote the reference number and request that you be informed of any action being taken or reasons for a decision not to act. Then mail or email your statement. Remember to ring back to check on any action.

A detailed step by step guide to incident reporting and other actions that you can take will be available on the BMCS website (in the ‘Planning and Development Resource Kit’) in a few weeks. In the meantime fact sheets are available on the Environmental Defenders Office website and there's also a copy of the EDO’s workshop presentation  (7MB pdf)

Shirley Hall NCC's Shirley Hall  (Mark Baker)
The meeting also learned about a court challenge to the legislation by the EDO and a campaign being spearheaded by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to strengthen the state laws to protect native vegetation, and repeal the codes that make it very easy to legally destroy biodiversity. More details are available on their respective websites where you will also find the links to assist in fundraising for these challenges and campaigns.

Thank you to Lyndal Sullivan and Phoebe Coster for their excellent organisation of this workshop and to members of the Society who assisted in various ways on the day.