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18 November 2008 - Endangered community gets critical under Governments watch      

Endangered community gets critical under Government’s watch

18 November 2008                                                                                          

The preliminary decision by the NSW Scientific Committee to upgrade the status of Cumberland Plain Woodland from endangered to a critically endangered ecological community has confirmed the NSW Government’s inability to protect its listed threatened species. A mere 9% of this woodland that once covered the Sydney Basin remains in small, vulnerable patches.

In making its determination, the Scientific Committee stated that Cumberland Plain Woodland “is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in NSW in the immediate future”.

“Cumberland Plain Woodland has been listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act for eleven years, and in that time, the NSW Government has continued to sanction its clearing through the approval of development proposals,” said Danielle Annese, HSI Program Manager. “Even worse, it has instituted a ‘Biodiversity Certification’ scheme in areas containing important remnants of the community, which has effectively switched off their own legal obligations to protect endangered ecological communities.”

The NSW Government has conferred Biodiversity Certification for the North West and South West Growth Areas, where around 2000 hectares (one-fifth) of the remaining Cumberland Plain Woodland is found. The proposed staged release of land for development would see the loss of over 1330 hectares.

“No amount of off-setting can compensate for the widespread and permanent loss of this ecological community,” said Ms Annese. “With this recent recognition of the dire condition of remaining Cumberland Plain Woodland, the government must commit to its long-term conservation and shelve any development proposals that will see the continued and fatal decline of this community.”

In addition to its listing under State legislation, Cumberland Plain Woodland is listed as an endangered ecological community on the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, also the result of a HSI nomination. While repeated calls from HSI for the listing of all remaining remnants of Cumberland Plain Woodland to be included on the EPBC Act Register of Critical Habitat have fallen on deaf ears, it is now more essential than ever that the Commonwealth Government deploy all possible provisions of the Act to ensure that any further wholesale clearance of this community is not permitted to happen. 

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