Gladys Berejiklian: The environmentally unfriendly Premier

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NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian at a by-election press conference (Image via YouTube)

The non-elected Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, has finally been exposed at the Wagga Wagga by-election. So have the lies and misinformation which are the hallmark of this woman’s Government.

REMEMBER? This is the Liberal politician who, on taking over from retiring Premier Mike Baird, famously said that as Premier she

“... will be working hard for everyone, listening to everyone and governing for everyone.

Everyone? As long as it’s corporations, developers, foreign investment and, basically, anyone who isn’t a voting member of the public.  

I know how to get things done,” she proclaimed in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on her rise to the state’s top political job. She sure does. She knows how to really piss off an electorate fed up to the back teeth with the lack of access to the Premier, her ministers and her ongoing refusal to listen to the public.  

At a time when the environment and wildlife of NSW is groaning under the weight of development at any cost – destroying ecosystems, riparian zones, old growth forests, coastal forests and, in particular, the remaining koala populations – Wagga Wagga has spoken for many voters across the state.

Ms Berejiklian doesn’t have an environmental bone in her body.

Her priority, in terms of the environment, according to the Premier's Priorities website, is to downsize the amount of litter.

Apparently, her mantra in life is that growth and infrastructure is the solution to all problems. Under her watch, the Roads and Maritime Services has run riot across the inner city and the coast. Impacts of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade has turned reasonable people into the growing number of Australians who have completely lost faith in the major political parties. What about WestConnex?

Complaints are ignored. Protests are ignored. In her spirit of “democracy”, Berejiklian brought in new protest regulations on 1 July 2018, described as a fundamental attack on democracy by a university law lecturer. The Crown Land Management Act, which contains the regulations, gives low-ranking bureaucrats broad powers to disperse or ban protests, meetings, rallies and gatherings on any state-owned land.

Aiden Ricketts, law lecturer at Southern Cross University, described the regulation changes as a “sneaky way” of broadening the Government’s power of public protests and rallies.

Changes to legislation would go through both houses of parliament and we’d see some debate about them. This is something that’s been done effectively with at the stroke of a ministerial pen under the auspices of pre-existing piece of legislation — the Crown Land Management Act.

Mr Ricketts went on to say that the new regulations were bigger and broader than those imposed under the Bjelke-Petersen era in Queensland in the 1970s, during the two-year ban, when nearly 2,000 people were arrested.  

Then there are the forests. Under Berejiklian and her awful Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, Member for Vaucluse (the heartland of environmentally concerned folk), remaining NSW native forests are about to disappear.

According to North East Forest Alliance, under new Regional Forest Agreements orchestrated by Berejiklian’s Forestry Commission, a 140,000 hectare "Intensive Zone" will see the alternative coupe clearfell logging practised in Eden extended all the way along the coast from Taree to Grafton.

The requirement for pre-logging surveys for most species will be scrapped. 326 species of threatened plants will lose their current legal protections and 32 will have their protection areas significantly reduced.

Streamside protection in the upper catchment headwaters will be more than halved. Under the new rules for many streams, logging will occur right up to the edge of the bank resulting in seriously diminished protection.

Let’s not forget that under the Berejiklian Government, Forestry Commission decisions can’t be legally challenged.

Which brings us to the koala. NEFA reports that most areas protected over the last 20 years because of the presence of protected species will be opened up for logging, including all the koala high-use areas identified to date. These are the actions of the same government which promised “there will be no erosion of environmental values”.

Massive destruction of remaining koala habitat in NSW was revealed in a ground-breaking report by WWF on 7 September. The satellite imagery WWF released showed a massive spike in the destruction of NSW koala forests. 

According to the report:

A whopping 14 football fields of koala habitat are bulldozed each day. The rate of tree clearing has tripled in the state’s north since the axing of the NSW Native Vegetation Act in August 2017. More than 5,000 hectares of koala habitat has been bulldozed in Moree and Collarenebri.

Conservation biologist for WWF, Martin Taylor, predicted dire consequences for koalas and other native wildlife if the clearing isn’t wound back:

“We see koala habitat disappearing at an alarming rate. The numbers are low and everybody out there is telling us that koalas are dropping terribly.”

And the Berejiklian Government’s response?

WWF is playing politics and scaremongering. The NSW Government’s Koala Strategy – the biggest commitment by any State Government to secure koalas in the wild – will provide more natural habitat for koalas, tackle diseases, improve research and fix roadkill hotspots.’

Hmm. Seems that the Government has a solid set of blinkers which allow Berejiklian and her Minister for the Environment and Maritime Services, Melinda Pavey, to ignore reality.

Just to be sure that Berejiklian et al are supported in their exponential efforts to destroy the environmental and wildlife heritage of NSW, that well known “greenie”, former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, dismissed claims that land clearing will make koalas extinct in NSW by 2050 as “sensational rubbish”.

No one is likely to argue over Joyce’s non-existent environmental credentials. As for any consideration of animal welfare, look no further than his and his party’s support for the cruel live export trade.  

In a further effort at “governing for everyone”, the Berejiklian Government distributed a draft translocation policy of animals and plants to a selected few for comment. NGOs working for native forests, koalas and other wildlife in peril were completely censored out of the distribution.

Timothy Sutton, Senior Project Officer, Conservation Programs at the Office of Environment & Heritage, advised Australians for Animals Inc. that:

I note that, as an operational policy, there is no requirement for OEH to undertake public consultation.

When further questioned as to why the draft policy on such an important topic was not made public, Sutton indicated that it was “because there’s a state election coming up.” Whatever that means.

Translocating koalas is the new buzz policy for both Queensland and NSW Governments, which are hell-bent on eradicating koalas and other pesky wildlife in the way of development.

Promises by politicians that translocations would only be done on conservation and animal welfare grounds can be taken with a large grain of salt. No one trusts politicians any more.

In all probability, the nation may owe a debt of thanks to Wagga Wagga voters, who have put rotten Coalition Governments on notice that they, too, are likely to be extinct in the not-too-distant future.

You can follow Sue Arnold on Twitter @koalacrisis and Koala Crisis on Facebook here.

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