NSW native vegetation act saves Australian wildlife
In 2005, the Native Vegetation Act 2003 came into force. The Act was the result of an agreement between farmers, government, scientists and environmentalists. Under the Act, the broad-scale clearing of forests and woodlands (“bushland”) was prohibited unless it could be demonstrated that the clearing would “improve or maintain environmental outcomes”, primarily by protecting areas of recovering bushland to offset the areas being cleared.
The Native Vegetation Act dramatically reduced the extent of landclearing approved in NSW and, in doing so, has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of native mammals, as well as protecting forests and woodlands that provide an abundance of other benefits of economic value, including shelter for stock and crops from wind and weather; pest control and pollination; health, recreation and amenity benefits; climate moderation; and protection from erosion, waterlogging and salinity.
The report’s main findings are:
• There has been an 88-fold reduction in areas approved for clearing from 80,000 hectares per year (from 1998 to 2005) to 911 hectares per year (from 2005 to 2013).
• Additionally, clearing approved after 2005 has been offset by protection and restoration of 61,000 hectares.
• There has been a 20% reduction in actual clearing of remnant bushland declining from 19,691 hectares per year up to 2005 to 15,731 hectares per year after 2005.
• It’s estimated there has been a 14% drop in native mammal deaths from 373,000 per year up to 2005 to 320,000 per year from 2006 to 2010 – a reduction of 53,000 per year. Smaller mammals like possums, gliders, carnivorous marsupials and native rodents dominate the mammal death estimates.
• The authors were not able to determine how much of the ongoing remnant clearing was legal – because of exemptions under the present legislation or approvals under other legislation – or illegal. The NSW Government does not publicly report these data. In 2006 the NSW Auditor General reported that 40% of clearing in 2005 was illegal.