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Farmers warn land clearing law reforms undermine modern agriculture
Media Release - 28th July 2016

• Laws will turbo-charge land clearing, undermine Landcare, damage market reputation
• NSW needs bold goals for improving native vegetation and farm sustainability

NSW farmers are pushing back against the NSW Government’s proposed land clearing laws, warning the changes undermine decades of landscape restoration and jeopardise the state’s reputation as a source of clean, green agricultural products.

A group of prominent primary producers has today launched a Farmers’ Statement that urges the NSW Government to:

“significantly alter the current draft Local Land Services Amendment Bill and Biodiversity Conservation Bill and commit to:

  • Set bold goals for improving native vegetation and farm sustainability.
  • Ensure that soil health, salinity and water quality are protected under the new laws.
  • Resource a new program to deliver agricultural and environmental support for farmers including through peer-to-peer education and mentoring.
  • Provide a significant increase in funds available for stewardship and private land conservation.

The group is appealing to all primary producers who are committed to modern land management practices to sign on to the statement at the Farming Future webpage here:

Anika Molesworth, 2015 Young Australian Farmer of the Year: “As a sector we are wholly reliant on the health of the landscape. Proper ecosystem functioning is the foundation for agriculture. Our actions and inactions today can jeopardise the rights and wellbeing of the next generation of farmers. Irresponsible and short-sighted land management will contribute to climate change and risks passing on to young farmers a legacy irreparably diminished.”

Brian Scarsbrick, CEO of Landcare for 20 years: “The new legislation is similar to changes to the Queensland Vegetation Act that resulted in a huge pulse of land clearing in that state. We can’t afford that to happen in NSW. Unfortunately, the Equity Code under the new bills will encourage landholders to clear up to 500ha of native bush every three years, which will turbo-charge land clearing rates in NSW, potentially undoing years of great work.”

Michael Hogan, Chair of SoilCare: “Any stock and station agent will tell you that a well-treed property will attract a higher price than a cleared farm. While farmers should be able to clear re-growth and woody weeds without too much red tape, the proposed changes go way too far.” 

Pam Brook, Macadamia grower: “We have learned so much about soil health and what we need to do to bring degraded properties back to health. We also have a much better understanding of how farms work as ecosystems. The draft laws that the NSW Government is proposing won’t restore much needed health to farms, they will undermine it.”

Charlie Arnott, 20011 Conservation Farmer of the Year (Lachlan region): “The health of any landscape is measured by its biodiversity. Clearing vegetation reduces this, and consequently impacts not just on its ability to grow clean healthy food but the resilience of that landscape to extremes in climate. If all sides of the argument can agree on that simple principle then we have a starting point for negotiations and common ground to share.” 

Josh Gilbert, former Chair of NSW Young Farmers: “Times are changing and our governments need to shift their thoughts on the environment. The changes the NSW Government are proposing risks not only the repetition of past errors, it trades long-term farm profitability for short-sighted practices.”

Dr Guy Fitzhardinge AM, grazier: “Agriculture in NSW is in a unique position to capitalise on a clean and green image and in so doing make its products the products of choice in a highly competitive market. Land clearing has long been recognised as a key threat to an ecologically functional and biodiverse landscape – key elements in ensuring that our agricultural productions systems are recognised for producing food of the highest quality in a sustainable manner and will continue to do so into the future. Any relaxation of land clearing laws seriously challenges this..”

Sally Ayre-Smith, Director of Organic Marketing Company: “As modern farmers we have learnt a lot from the mistakes made in our more recent history of food production. We now understand the impact that poor soil health has on the food we produce and in turn how this affects our health. Increasingly our well informed and educated consumers realise this as well. These suggested changes will only reward out dated practices which benefit neither consumers nor farmers”

Glenn Morris, grazier: “These laws take us back 25 years to old-style farming practices that failed years ago and should have been discarded. We don’t need more land clearing in an environment where we are already suffering a deficit of rainfall which is crippling farming families across the state. Farmers are facing some big challenges, including declining soil fertility and climate change. We have to protect the vegetation that retains water in our landscapes and binds our soils together, and nurture healthy soils to ensure a sustainable farming future.”


Spokespeople profiles:


Charlie Arnott - Central West District
Grazier, Hanaminno, Boorowa, NSW. Sustainable Farming Ambassador for Landcare Australia. Conservation Farmer of the Year – Regional Winner, Lachlan (2011), National Carbon Cocky awards - Winner – Outstanding Leadership  (2011). Biodynamic Farmer. 

Sally Ayre-Smith - Mid-North Coast
Sweetwater Farm, NSW. Director of Organic Marketing Company. 

Pam Brook - North Coast
Macadamia grower, “Brookfarm”, Bangalow NSW. 

Dr Guy Fitzhardinge AM - Central West
Grazier, Pennyroyal, Mandurama, NSW.

Josh Gilbert - Mid-North Coast
Grazier, Riverside Park Brafords, Nabiac, NSW, former Chair of NSW Young Farmers who resigned in February 2016 over concerns with the NSW Farmers Association's position on land clearing.

Michael Hogan - North Coast
Chair of SoilCare, Organic Avocado Farmer from Alstonville.

Anika Molesworth - Far West and Riverina
Grazier, Rupee and Clevedale Stations, Broken Hill, NSW. 2015 Young Australian Farmer of the Year.  

Glenn Morris - Northwest
Grazier, “Billabong”, Inverell NSW. Glenn rode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in June to raise awareness about the need for a modern approach to farming and land management.

Brian Scarsbrick
Mr Scarsbrick was a regional director for the NSW Department of Agriculture for eight years before becoming CEO of Landcare for 20 years. He is currently CEO of the National Trust of Australia (NSW).