17 June 2013 — The NSW government’s announced changes to land clearing law has environmentalists up in arms.

Laws determining how farmers can clear native vegetation on their land will be overhauled through changes to the Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act and related legislation, deputy premier and NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner told a conference in Bathurst on Friday.

“It seems to us they are taking their guidance from the environmental vandals of Queensland – just doing it slower,” said Total Environment Centre executive director Jeff Angel. “The introduction of so-called self-assessment codes for clearing and complete review of the two fundamental pieces of law that seek to protect bushland and threatened species across the state are a shocking turn of events.”

Executive director of the Environment Defenders Office NSW Jeff Smith told ABC’s Radio National that the laws, which he worked on, were brought in due to high levels of land clearing and inadequate enforcement.

“We’re now moving down the path of allowing farmers to self assess, which harkens back to the old style of regulation which in NSW wasn’t working,” he said.

“We are on the slippery slope towards major environmental destruction,” said Mr Angel. “The O’Farrell government’s claim that they want to develop best practice bushland and threatened species protection legislation and integrate with the planning act is laughable. The Acts we already have are best practice and the current proposals for a new planning act seriously weaken environment protection.”

President of the NSW Farmers Fiona Simson welcomed the news, saying “the current Native Vegetation Act in New South Wales seems to be predicated on a thought that farmers are environmental vandals”.

In Queensland, changes recently brought in by the Newman government removed barriers for vegetation clearance to help the government achieve its goal of doubling Queensland’s food production by 2040.

Prior to the reform, a group of 27 Queensland scientists urged Premier Campbell Newman to reconsider the changes, saying that it could lead to devastating species and habitat loss.