Government calls for nominations of Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity Value

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean at a recent visit to Port Stephens. Photo: Marian Sampson.

 

REDUCING habitat destruction is key to saving species like the koala.

The government last week called for nominations for Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity Value (AOBVs), which qualify for conservation work funding from the Biodiversity Conservation Trust.

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Areas such as the Mambo Wanda Wetlands could be considered, with the community currently working towards a RAMSAR listing for the site.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said these new legal instruments will fill a gap in conservation measures in NSW by preserving key landscapes that protect a broad range of our natural heritage.

However, AOBV nominations will only be considered with the landholders’ consent, which the Nature Conservation Council consider a significant shortcoming.

“It is great to have clarity on how this scheme will work, but it offers no protection for vital habitat remnants if a landowner has a slash-and-burn approach to land management,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“The AOBV scheme was a key component of the Coalition’s overhaul of conservation laws in NSW, but for some reason it has taken four years to deliver and is a little underwhelming.

“It was supposed to counterbalance the increased land clearing the Biodiversity Conservation Act was expected to trigger, but the scheme outlined today is too limited to ever do that.

“Latest land-clearing data shows 150 hectares of wildlife habitat is bulldozed or logged every day in NSW, almost twice the average annual rate recorded before the Coalition overhauled nature laws.

“The government’s own data shows 54,500 hectares of native forest were destroyed for farming, forestry and development in 2019.

“The truth is that even with this new scheme, wildlife and critical habitat is still woefully unprotected because the whole system relies on the goodwill of landholders.

“While most landholders do the right thing and protect critically important bushland, a small minority do not and that’s where the government should be focusing.

“The AOBV scheme is entirely voluntary, so it actually offers no more protection than landholders are currently prepared to provide, although it does reward them financially for doing so.”

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said, “I want to leave our planet in a better state for future generations and this is another tool to ensure areas of irreplaceable biodiversity on private and public lands across NSW can be protected.

“Local communities or private landholders can now conserve areas that would otherwise not be captured or recognised through any other legal instrument, such as in National Parks.”

Once identified, AOBVs are an ‘automatic priority’ for investment by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT), meaning landholders can access funds to manage the land for conservation.

Chair of the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, the Hon Niall Blair, said AOBV’s will help improve conservation especially on private land.

“The BCT already has a number of mechanisms that provide private landholders across the state a financial incentive to conserve biodiversity on their own properties,” Mr Blair said.

“This new mechanism will help us capture areas and pockets of high value biodiversity that otherwise may have slipped through the net.”

Identified by rigorous scientific assessment, AOBVs are designed to conserve high value conservation sites, threatened species or critical habitats.

This includes climate refugia, migratory pathways or areas with a high variety of biodiversity values.

AOBVs can only be declared with landholders’ consent, with nominated areas assessed against key scientific criteria set out in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

 

A koala in the wild. Just one species in need of habitat protection in the region.

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