Passage of biodiversity bill welcomed by industry

02 June 2010

The Urban Taskforce has welcomed the passage of legislation reforming threatened species laws through the lower house of the NSW Parliament last night.

The Taskforce’s chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the changes would help cut through some of the red tape that has been dragging down the development of new housing and employment areas.


“We congratulate both the Government and the Opposition for supporting this reform.”


Mr Gadiel said that the Threatened Species Conservation Amendment (Biodiversity Certification) Bill 2010 will overcome problems in the current law.


“In theory, the current law allows any state or local planning scheme to be ticked off by the Environment Minister as long as it maintains or improves biodiversity values,” Mr Gadiel said.


“If a plan is approved in this way, specific development applications that satisfy pre-set rules no longer need to be individually assessed for their impact on threatened species.


“Decisions would be made more holistically, region-wide, rather than by a narrow project-by-project basis.


“The rules will be clear to everyone and there will be greater investment certainty.


“In practice, the Environment Minister has not been approving planning schemes, because green groups have promised to litigate any Minister who dares to exercise this discretion.


“In fact, when the NSW Government accredited its plan for the development of the Western Sydney growth centres, the threat of court action forced it to pass special legislation to ensure the approval was not subject to a mischievous legal challenge.”


Mr Gadiel said the new legislation would provide a clear basis for ministerial decision-making and reduce the risk of a challenge based on legal technicalities.


“This proposal is a win all around it means more sensible decisions based on the environmental issues of a whole region but it also means less red tape for individual development applicants,” he said.


Mr Gadiel said the current requirement for accredited plans to “improve or maintain” biodiversity values was unclear.


“Any ecosystem including one composed of rabbits is currently protected, regardless of its ecological significance,” he said.


“Urban development that results in less grazing land for kangaroos will have difficulty passing the current ‘improve or maintain’ test even when kangaroos are in plague proportions.


“The existing requirement to ‘improve or maintain’ biodiversity values does not distinguish between values that must be protected because of their importance and those that are of lesser significance.”


Mr Gadiel said the proposed legislative changes will address these issues by providing a clearer process for the operation of the “improve or maintain” test.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.


The construction activity made possible by property developers contributes $78 billion to the national economy each year and creates 849,000 direct jobs.



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