Land clearing to be challenged in the first koala court

TRAGIC: Land clearing can have a devastating impact on koala populations. New laws would allow landowners to clear sections of native bushland on their property without prior environmental assessment.
TRAGIC: Land clearing can have a devastating impact on koala populations. New laws would allow landowners to clear sections of native bushland on their property without prior environmental assessment.

YOU may have heard of a kangaroo court, but have you heard of a koala court?

Koalas (or their representatives, at least) are now taking the NSW Government to court against new land clearing laws that are devastating native habitats across the state.

The new laws would allow landowners to clear sections of native bushland on their property without prior environmental assessment.

The Nature Conversation Council won its first court case on the issue in March and has started fresh legal action through the Environmental Defenders Office to scrap new land clearing codes.

While the government argues the new laws give landowners the “tools and certainty they need”, NCC chief executive Kate Smolksi says the new codes would expose 99 per cent of identified koala habitat on private land to the bulldozers.

“If we win, the codes will have to be re-made, which will create another opportunity for us to have these laws strengthened to give our koalas and other threatened wildlife the protection they deserve,” Ms Smolski said.

Conservationists argue more than 1000 plant and animal species are at risk of extinction in NSW, including the koala and 60 per cent of all native mammals.

The new laws would exacerbate the problem of landowners taking a “clear first, contest later” approach.

At particular risk are old trees in paddocks that provide nesting hollows for vulnerable native animals.

Even if the bulldozed trees are replaced by the landowner, the new plantings will not be able to replace old tree hollows that can take hundreds of years to form.

“Land clearing is the main threat to many of these animals, and the land-clearing codes this government has introduced, potentially unlawfully, are pushing them closer to the brink,” Ms Smolski said.

The new legal challenge is set down to be heard by the Land and Environment Court in July.

The new land clearing laws will be the focus of a one-day seminar in Orange on Sunday, July 8 from 10am-4pm.

Speakers will include Jemilah Hallinan (Environmental Defenders’ Office) and Daisy Barham from the Nature Conservation Council.

The seminar will also take a close look at threats to biodiversity posed by a proposal to build an extensive network of mountain bike tracks on Mount Canobolas.

The seminar will be held in the Blue Room of the Orange City Bowling Club.

To register or for more information, contact Cilla Kinross at ckinross@csu.edu.au or phone 6365 7651.

Tracy Sorensen is president of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network (BCCAN). Visit www.bccan.org.au.