Abolishing Western Lands Commissioner putting Western NSW at risk

MEDIA RELEASE – 10 November 2016

The passage of the Crown Land Management Bill at 3:30am Wednesday morning will allow the NSW Government to sell off our crown lands and gut environmental protections for the western half of NSW.  The Bill abolishes the Western Lands Commissioner, removes some environmental protections and allows the conversion of leasehold land to freehold.

NSW Greens Western NSW spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said:

“The Greens are concerned this will lead to overgrazing of these fragile lands and the spread of weeds and pest animals if a dedicated Western Lands Commissioner is abolished.

“Without an independent Commissioner with appropriate powers to manage the environment as a whole, the Greens have no faith that this fragile environment will be protected from poor farming practices.  While most farmers do the right thing, it only takes a few poor land managers to have serious impacts because of the nature of the region with limited water and poor soil quality.

“Placing the Minister in charge of Western Lands instead of a dedicated and independent Commissioner means 42% of the state may face neglect and means decisions will be more open to lobbying from vested interests.

“Allowing leases to be converted to freehold will lead to the fragmentation of the Western Division, making management of this vast area more difficult and creating a funding death spiral by driving down the rent base available to resource environmental management.

“The removal of the ability to direct leaseholders to ‘preserve trees, scrub and vegetative cover on the land’ is very concerning and could lead to substantial loss of vegetation.

“This is the government essentially abdicating responsibility for managing 42% of the state.  Parts will be sold off to freehold, and the rest will suffer fragmentation and a lack of dedicated resources to manage the environment.

“The Greens moved amendments to retain the independent office of the Western Lands Commissioner, retain environmental safeguards and to prevent any increased sale of Western Lands leases. “

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