Farmers' EPBC Act frustrations confirmed in interim report

Farmers EPBC Act frustrations confirmed in interim report

Opinion
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The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) has been a bugbear of the farming community for the last 20 years.

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African Lovegrass dominating native pasture across the Monaro. Photo: Canberra Times

African Lovegrass dominating native pasture across the Monaro. Photo: Canberra Times

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) has been a bugbear of the farming community for the last 20 years.

The Act does not enable appropriate weed management, and it fails to see farmers remunerated for the conservation services they provide at the expense of property rights and commercial production.

The practicalities of weed management are undermined by the EPBC Act. Under the Act, farmers cannot conduct broad acre spraying until the weed reaches 50 percent of the perennial population of the grassland.

But it is widely acknowledged that an infestation of 25 percent is the threshold at which broad acre strategies need to be implemented in order to contain the spread of weeds.

In April 2016, the Natural Temperate Grassland of the South Eastern Highlands ecological community was listed as critically endangered under the EPBC Act. The area covered by this listing was later increased to cover the entire Central Tablelands of NSW.

The greatest risk to the preservation of this listing is invasion of perennial weeds such as Serrated Tussock, African Lovegrass and Chilean Needlegrass. Farmers cannot control these weeds unless the infestation is greater than 50 percent due to the operation of the Act. Anchor

While these specific issues were not identified in the Interim report, some of our broader concerns were.

In authoring the report's recommendations, Professor Graeme Samuels AC acknowledged the conflicting regulatory requirements the EPBC Act has created under state and Commonwealth legislation, the inadequacy of the Act to address future environmental challenges, and the excessive costs the regulation places on businesses while achieving little appreciable benefit to the environment.

Professor Samuel has recommended the development of National Environment Standards that focus on prescription rather than process.

Where states and territories can demonstrate their systems align with the standards, responsibilities should be devolved.

NSW Farmers has long held the view that there should be alignment of environmental legislation delivered through one service, so we welcome the State playing a greater role.

  • Bronwyn Petrie - Chair, NSW Farmers Conservation and Resource Management Committee
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