NSW Mapping Putting Battered Habitats at Risk
Humane Society International (HSI) is highly concerned about the implications for threatened wildlife habitats following the reported scale of inaccuracy of the mapping system set to underpin the new generation biodiversity law in New South Wales (Losing the Plot, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/01/16). With an independent study finding that the system was only 17% accurate at identifying plant communities and picked up just one of 13 occurrences of Weeping Myall shrubland – an endangered ecological community listed following an HSI nomination in 2003 - there is a near certain risk that remnants of already battered ecosystems will fail to be identified and therefore no longer receive their required consideration.
As the nominator of 25 ecological communities currently listed as threatened under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, one of the four pieces of legislation set to be replaced by the broader biodiversity law, HSI is particularly concerned that further degradation will push ecosystems across the state that are already recognised as being on the brink due to land clearing even closer to complete destruction.
“Land clearing, be it for urban development or agricultural or mining purposes, is the primary reason these ecosystems have been assessed as requiring legislative protection in the first place. Cementing a mapping system shown to be hugely inaccurate into the legislation charged with their safeguarding is unacceptable and will do nothing but hasten their demise,” said HSI Senior Program Manager Evan Quartermain.
Missing the chance to move to an improved mapping system is even more concerning given the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to devolve environmental powers to states and territories through a ‘one-stop-shop’. If the state can’t be trusted with protecting ecosystems listed on the schedules of its own legislation, it should not be handed responsibility for Matters of National Environmental Significance.
Mr Quartermain concluded, “We urge the New South Wales Government to walk away from the proposed mapping system. Having already invested heavily is not good enough reason to hold on to it, and it’s time to cut losses before any new law is compromised by having such an inaccurate methodology entrenched.”
HSI continues to argue the position outlined in our submission to the NSW Biodiversity Legislation Review: that high quality remnants of Threatened Ecological Communities listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 should be designated ‘red flag’ areas off limits to all development. Strong action is required to reverse worrying levels of biodiversity loss in New South Wales.