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NSW farmers accelerate land-clearing rates, doubling previous decade

Farmers in NSW are increasing the rate they clear land, taking advantage of looser native vegetation controls to more than double the pace of deforestation of the previous decade.

The state lost 60,800 hectares – or about 200 times the size of Sydney’s CBD – of woody vegetation in 2018, up from 58,000 hectares the previous year, government data shows. Of that about half was the result of agriculture, with forestry and infrastructure accounting for the remainder in both years.

Trees that had been felled on property near Mount Hope in north-west NSW.

Trees that had been felled on property near Mount Hope in north-west NSW.Credit:Nick Moir

The Berejiklian government replaced vegetation laws in August 2017, prompting a surge in land clearing by farmers. The 29,400 hectares cleared in 2018 was up about 8 per cent on the previous year but more than twice the 12,300 hectares removed on average during 2009-17.

Only about one-fifth of the 2018 total land cover change was formally authorised. Some 73 per cent was listed as “unexplained”, although some of that would have been lawful clearing that did not require approval, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said.

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