The Berejiklian government has reinstated land clearing laws hours after they were ruled invalid, in what environmental advocates have described as “callous indifference to nature”.
The Land and Environment Court on Friday declared the code was invalid because Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair did not follow due process.
But the government quickly reinstated identical laws to give landowners “certainty to get on with the business of farming”, the Local Land Services said in a statement on Friday night.
The new law came into affect on Sunday, according to a spokeswoman for Mr Blair.
The court challenge by Nature Conservation Council (NCC) was successful because Mr Blair did not obtain concurrence from Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton before making the codes, which is required by law.
The code, introduced last year, allows landowners to clear sections of native bushland on their property without environmental assessment.
“The re-made code is identical to the previous one and is an integral part of the new land management framework which gives landowners the tools and certainty they need,” Local Land Services CEO David Witherdin said.
“The code delivers the right balance that supports a productive agricultural sector and a healthy environment.”
Asked whether it included enough environmental protections, a spokeswoman for Ms Upton merely said she supported the code.
The NCC said the code should have been redrafted with more protections.
“The government’s action is disappointing but sadly not surprising given its terrible record on the environment and seemingly callous indifference for nature,” CEO Kate Smolski said.
“The government’s own experts have warned 99 per cent of koala habitat on private land is left exposed to clearing by these laws and that there would be a spike in tree loss of up to 45 per cent.”
The Environmental Defenders Office, which represented the NCC, on Friday urged the government not to reinstate identical laws.
“This is not simply a matter of incorrect paperwork. Ecologically sustainable development is not just another box to tick – the Environment Minister has a legal responsibility to protect biodiversity in this state,” CEO David Morris said in a statement on Friday after the court ruling.
“Following our win in court, the government will have to remake the native vegetation clearing code. This court decision provides a clear opportunity to do it properly this time – including removing broadscale land clearing from the code and protecting important habitat for threatened species like the koala.”
A joint statement from NCC, National Parks Association of NSW, WWF-Australia, Humane Society International Australia, the Wilderness Society and other advocacy groups had all called on the government to go back to the drawing board on Friday.