New figures released today by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) shows the expansion of the National Park estate has almost ground to a halt since the Coalition came to power in 2011.
According to the NSW Report on Native Vegetation 2013-141 the average annual rate of National Park additions under the Coalition to 2013-14 is just 9,753ha—a 95% reduction on the previous six-year average of 173,965ha.2
NPA CEO Kevin Evans said: “The NSW government just returned a $3.4bn surplus, yet there is no investment in new protected areas.
“That’s despite the knowledge that National Parks play a key role in regional economies by driving tourism.
“In 2015, 25 million nature-based visitors spent $16.8 billion in NSW.3 These are big numbers. National Parks are repaying the investment by previous governments in spades.
“Those parts of western NSW that still don’t have many National Parks are missing out on their share of the visitor economy. The government should get its act together to help regional economies diversify.
“Yet we have been waiting since April 2015 for the release of the revamped National Parks Establishment Plan. The delay signals a total lack of interest in National Parks by the Coalition.
“The government will no doubt point to the proposed increase in spending on private land conservation to demonstrate its environmental credentials.
“But the NSW public can’t enjoy nature on private land—it’s inaccessible, locked up. Investing in private land at the expense of building the National Parks network is a poor return for taxpayers.
“National Parks are the best way to ensure our grandkids and great-grandkids can share in the amazing nature that we’re so lucky to experience.”
The report also showed that over 60% of the 9,100ha cleared in 2012-13 (the latest year for which data is available) is ‘unexplained’, and likely illegal, and that native forest logging, 80% of which occurs on public land, accounts for by far the largest legal loss of tree cover: 10,310ha of forest was removed in 2012-13 and the trend is rising.
NPA Senior Ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney said: “Besides the alarming rate of clearing, the time lag in reporting is a stark illustration of the esteem in which the Coalition holds native vegetation.
“We’re now in 2016-17 and we’re looking at clearing data for 2012-13. A three year lag is unacceptable—fast forward and it becomes clear that we won’t know the impact of Baird’s new land clearing laws before the next election.
“That will be of comfort to the Premier, because the huge increase in Queensland land clearing was a decisive factor in the dramatic downfall of the Campbell Newman’s Coalition government.
“We’ve already seen an acceleration of tree clearing in the last 18 months in anticipation of the change of laws. We expect that this is just the top of a very slippery slope.
“We need to retain strong clearing laws, get out of logging on public land and complete the establishment of the National Parks network before we lose the animals that make Australia unique.”
Kevin Evans, CEO
T: 0457 797 977
Dr Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist
T: 0431 251 194
1 Report and accompanying spreadsheet available from: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/vegetation/reports.htm
2 Table 1, page 8
3 Destination NSW 2015. Nature Based Tourism to NSW: Year ended December 2015. http://www.destinationnsw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Nature-based-tourism-YE-Dec-15.pdf