The NSW Nationals party room has today agreed the party will no longer attend joint party room or parliamentary leadership meetings and until this matter is resolved, will abstain from voting on government bills but reserves the right to support bills and motions that are important to regional NSW.

This effectively puts the entire party on the crossbench.

On Tuesday the NSW Nationals will introduce a bill to the Legislative Assembly to repeal the State Environmental Planning Policy Koala Habitat Protection.

The National Party wants to see a thriving koala population in NSW, even a doubling of the population, but this SEPP does not achieve this. It is a blunt instrument to make city-centric law makers feel good about themselves.

For six months the NSW Nationals have sought to work collaboratively with the Liberal Party to ensure the State Environmental Planning Policy Koala Habitat Protection, which has replaced the Koala Habitat Protection (SEPP44), does not take away farmers’ property rights.

The National Party brought forward a number of constructive and reasonable proposals but unfortunately the response from the Liberal Party suggests a lack of urgency and unwillingness to give ground on any substantive matters that greatly affect our regional communities.

Our proposed changes include:

  • Ensure the definition of ‘core’ koala habitats includes thresholds for koala presence, verified records and highly suitable koala habitat.
  • Include only high use and significant use koala tree species consistent with the Koala Habitat Information Base Technical Guide.
  • Increase the number of core koala trees species from 10 to 39.
  • A clear and reasonable definition of highly suitable koala habitat. The old SEPP required a 30 per cent threshold of tree species, the new SEPP proposes 15 per cent and the Nationals propose a 30 per cent threshold based on the increase of tree species.
  • The decoupling of Private Native Forestry from the Koala SEPP.
  • Rural regulated land and agricultural production should come under the land management framework, operating outside of the SEPP.
  • Local councils must be required to undertake on-ground surveys in areas of proposed core koala habitat on private land.
  • The costs of survey work must be borne by local councils, including costs associated with an independent survey commissioned by a landholder.
  • Councils must be required to amend areas of core koala habitat based on landholder surveys provided these are consistent with methods in the Guidelines.
  • The survey methods must be the same for landholders and Councils and be clearly set out in the Guidelines.

We must protect property rights, traditional farming practices, private native forestry and the ability for landholders to conduct minor developmental changes without being mired in layers of green tape.

Our proposed changes will support koalas, but the SEPP in its current form will not support our farmers.