National Farmers' Federation

Weeding Out the Myths in the Environmental Debate

FINALLY commonsense is creeping into the public environmental debate. Farmers and those concerned about genuine conservation have long known that many of the accepted ‘norms’ supposedly protecting Australia’s environment have actually done more harm than good.
Last weekend’s Sunday program brought to light the reality check long overdue in Australia. ‘Woody weeds’ (or invasive native scrub) have been allowed to run rife, destroying vast areas of the landscape, all under the guise of halting land-clearing.
“It’s time governments delivered on their rhetoric,” NFF CEO Ben Fargher said. “We’ve seen a lot of ‘lip service’ on this issue. The Productivity Commission’s 2004 report ‘The Impacts of Native Vegetation and Biodiversity Regulations’ acknowledged the ridiculous situation that sees sound, scientifically-based environmental outcomes compromised by the dogma of green politics.”
In fact, the Commission highlighted instances of negative environmental impacts resulting from over regulation of Australia’s native vegetation, including: a lack of clarity in the specification of the regulations; a failure to apply the regulations flexibly on a case-by-case basis in a way that focuses on environmental outcomes; a lack of recognition of the economic incentives underlying the problem at hand; and/or a lack of resources to ensure effective environmental management.
Prime Minister John Howard recently articulated five “great national challenges” – one of which is the sustainable use of resources. More recently the Banks Review on Reducing the Regulatory Burden and the associated Council of Australian Governments reform agenda, also include improving and streamlining environmental regulation.
“The science has always maintained trees are a positive when grown where they are needed,” Mr Fargher added. “But trees or scrub in the wrong places leads to environmental degradation and loss of the biodiversity.
“Natural and human-induced disturbance has changed the landscape and, in some instances, led to native scrub species invading these grasslands that were once home to significant numbers of native animals, birds, grass and herb species.
“We need to actively protect the environment, not destroy it by doing nothing as some so-called environmentalists would like. Doing nothing has seen grasslands become desolate scrub with poor soil quality and low biodiversity value, leading to large areas of eroded bare earth which are contributing to increased stream and river turbidity. Rather, the regulation must allow for restoration.
“NFF’s natural resource management agenda is underpinned by delivering sound environmental outcomes. Farmers understand that a healthy environment delivers healthy farming outcomes. This is a good outcome for farmers, but just as importantly it is a good outcome for all Australians who value the environment.
Sunday has publicly shown the result of inflexible native vegetation regulation. The Government has already acknowledgment the problem exists. Let’s take the next step and fix it.”

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