Farmers 'win' in koala battle, enshrined in law

Koala planning laws axed that would have strangled farming

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Ag Minister Adam Marshall says changes to the Koala SEPP will protect farmers.

Ag Minister Adam Marshall says changes to the Koala SEPP will protect farmers.

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Decoupling bill from Koala SEPP goes to Parliament

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The right to farm without encumbrance from new koala planning laws could be enshrined in law by the end of the week.

In what is an extraordinary turnaround after a bitter feud in the NSW Coalition, the Nationals have brokered a deal that will see parts of the Local Land Services Act decoupled from the new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP).

If the Koala SEPP had gone ahead as planned it would have forced rural landholders in koala zones to go to councils to get approval for a range of normal farming activities.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the new changes would mean the right to farm, to remove invasive native species, clear near fences and roadways and perform other normal rural activities would be protected.

The legislation known as the Local Land Services Amendment Miscellaneous Bill 2020 was introduced into parliament on Tuesday and although it seems inevitable it will pass the Legislative Assembly, it will need crossbench support to get through the Legislative Council. The Government believes this can be done.

Known as the "Decoupling Bill", Part 5A and Part 5B of the Local Land Services Act 2013 will be decoupled from the Koala SEPP.

Mr Marshall said the Koala SEPP as it stood would have wiped out 8 years of land management reforms for farmers. He told The Land there was an agreement the new Koala SEPP would not be introduced into parliament until the decoupling bill first went through.

Mr Marshall said the koala habitat mapping that had shown football goalposts, macadamia farms and even fruit trees planted by schoolkids at Scone as habitats, were "gone" from the SEPP.

"The mapping was an embarrassment," Mr Marshall told The Land. "Satellite mapping cannot adequately distinguish between tree species and is clearly not aligned with what is on the ground." The same system was abandoned for native veg mapping as well, he said.

He also revealed that the new decoupling bill would protect Private Native Forest (PNF) plantations on properties - and the protection for plantations would be doubled from 15 to 30 years. He saw a large future for farmers wanting to get involved in PNF projects.

The result follows seven months of a stalemate when the Nationals claimed their Liberal counterparts ignored their complaints. Not even NSW Farmers had been consulted over the plans. It led at one point to Nationals Leader John Barilaro threatening to take his party to the crossbench.

The Nationals say the new SEPP will only affect large developments that involve a Development Application. "This means rural regulated land will continue to be managed under the Land Management Framework - rather than the planning system."

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