We highlight nine major areas of biodiversity concern, where the current legislation is not achieving its stated objectives and suggest how to improve biodiversity conservation across NSW (recommendations).
Recommendations (short form)
Recommendation 1 – Ensure funding for recovery of threatened species and ecological communities and effective management of threats to biodiversity is adequate, and improved and enhanced regulatory measures to limit further clearing as well as the repeal of the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018.
Recommendation 2 – Actions required to ensure that the biodiversity legislation is adequate in relation to the management and conservation of native vegetation communities including:
i. Implementation of the ecosystem approach and mapping major ecosystems of New South Wales;
ii. providing nationally compliant, comprehensive and up to date, threatened ecological community listings for NSW;
iii. publishing annual estimates of clearing;
iv. removal of exemptions under the Local Land Services Act, defined and replaced under a revised Biodiversity Conservation Act, with assessments carried out by independent certified professionals;
v. application of the Mitigation Hierarchy needs to apply to all major developments;
vi. Water Sharing Plans need to be linked to the Biodiversity legislation and;
vii. Continued investment in stewardship programs, such as the Biodiversity Conservation Trust but ensuring representativeness. but ensure there is transparency, ensuring that reward for good practice.
Recommendation 3 – Ensure implementation of the Precautionary Principle, as defined by current NSW legislation, Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991 Section 6(2), is incorporated and applied to all parts of the NSW Biodiversity Act and associated Regulations.
Recommendation 4 – All species, populations and ecological communities, identified as Serious and Irreversible Impact (SAII) should trigger application throughout the Biodiversity Act, mandating the design of future development for avoidance of SAII, including no implementation of biodiversity offsets.
Recommendation 5 – Ensure that Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity (AOBV) are identified and listed, including those already assessed as candidates, as well as future AOBVs.
Recommendation 6 – Develop a comprehensive and up to date list of threatened plants and ecological communities for NSW. Threatened species and ecological communities (TECs) management and conservation program needs restructuring to deal with 3 key elements:
i. comprehensive assessments of status for all species and TECs;
ii. strengthen support for a more comprehensive SOS program for conservation management of threats, threatened species, populations, TECs and Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity (AOBV) and;
iii. update the regulatory framework so that it truly and consistently applies the world’s best practice, consistent with the Mitigation Hierarchy principle.
Recommendation 7 – Complete comprehensive systematic risk assessments of ecosystems in NSW, requiring mapping of ecotypes, identified by the Global Ecosystem Typology.
Recommendation 8 – Threatened Species Scientific Committee
i. Establish a Biodiversity Scientific Committee with a purview over all biodiversity, including integrating roles and responsibilities of the current Threatened Species Scientific Committees under the Biodiversity Act and the NSW Fisheries Act and;
ii. enhance resourcing for Biodiversity Scientific Committee for its functions.
Recommendation 9 – The role of the Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Panel be expanded to provide independent advice related to biodiversity conservation, beyond simply AOBVs.