Councils should back cuts to red tape

NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle has criticised environmental politics holding up rebuilding efforts across the state, saying we need less talk, more action.

At present, landholders seeking to harvest timber on their properties need to go through a duplicated approvals process at a state and local government level, reducing supply of hardwoods, delaying rebuilding efforts, and driving construction costs higher when people can least afford it. 

In response, NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders introduced legislation to enact changes to the Private Native Forestry Code, which would see dual consent requirements dropped and approval periods extended from 15 to 30 years.

Local Government NSW slammed the move, saying councils were being sidelined, but NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle said LGNSW had admitted councils were under “unprecedented financial pressures” and should welcome plans to ease the regulatory burden.

“We have roads across the state that can’t be fixed fast enough, a planning system that’s clogged up for all these rebuilding efforts, and councils that are clearly under the pump,” Mr Arkle said.

“That’s why it’s so crazy that some of these councils - particularly those dominated by environmental politics - are desperate to cling to control of timber approvals.

“The new Private Native Forestry Code includes boosted environmental protections and these projects will still be subject to strict review, it just won’t be done at a council level.” 

Mr Arkle said the independent Natural Resources Commission described the new Private Native Forestry Codes as a significant improvement over the previous codes, with a number of additional environmental protections relating to koalas, unmapped streams and harvesting intensity limits. The proposed legislation would not change the EPA’s enforcement function, existing State Environmental Planning Policies, or any existing prohibitions for forestry.

“It’s just crazy that our own heavily regulated timber industry is shedding jobs while the state spends $2 billion a year on importing timber from some fundamentally unregulated overseas forests to rebuild homes after natural disasters,” Mr Arkle said.

“We had a housing affordability problem before this year’s floods, and now communities are feeling even more pressure with rising inflation, high material costs and a lack of tradies to get the job done.

“Cutting some of this senseless red tape is one common-sense way the government can improve timber supply, and in turn ease the burden on local councils whose staff already have their hands full with development applications and road repairs.” 

Date: Friday, November 11, 2022
Media Contact: Steve Mudd  | 0429 011 690 | [email protected]