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‘Another blow’: Fears over koala habitat veto for Barilaro’s office

A Planning spokeswoman said it was “not uncommon for plans or development applications to need concurrence from another government agency due to the need for approvals or consideration under separate legislation”.

“This concurrence role will ensure that we can balance the needs of our farmers and foresters while immediately introducing enhanced protection for koala habitat in areas where more than 95 per cent of development activity occurs,” she said.

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”Potential developments will need to be assessed on their planning merits and be subject to strict conditions of consent.“

A spokeswoman for Mr Barilaro said “it was agreed between the Deputy Premier and Minister Stokes that the secretaries from both the Department of Regional NSW and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment should have approval for concurrence” over the new koala SEPP.

KPOMs already approved, including Tweed and Byron which came into effect on Wednesday, will not need concurrence by the two secretaries.

Independent NSW MP Justin Field said “it should concern everyone that under this new SEPP John Barilaro’s department has been given veto power over future plans of management for koalas”.

“You would have thought the Liberals would have learnt a lesson in giving the Nationals any power over the future of koalas in NSW.”

The SEPP 2021 is only part of the Berejiklian government’s policy aimed at addressing land management issues involving koalas.

Mr Barilaro had already secured a carve-out of about 80 per cent of NSW from the planning policy.

Codes covering how landholders can treat private native forestry and other agriculture activities in those regions are due to be signed off by Environment Minister Matt Kean and Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall by April 9.

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If the two ministers can’t agree, the issue will go back to the cabinet for approval.

Bellingen’s Cr King said work by his and other shires revealed that local input could be critical to ensuring habitat suitable for koalas was protected.

Recent mapping by Kempsey and Port Macquarie, for instance, showed 38 per cent of sites in the two shires that were assessed under the state’s BioNet data repository as not having koalas turned out to have the marsupials when ground-proofing surveys were done.

“It just shows the government has been disingenuous in saying that it wanted koala numbers to double,” Mr King said, referring to a goal set for 2050 by Minister Kean last July.

Kevin Evans, a local spokesman for the National Parks Association, said the forests of Bellingen Shire were vital for the future of NSW koalas with healthy populations known to occur throughout the region.

“That’s why Bellingen Shire Council adopted the largest koala plan of management in the state,” Mr Evans said. “Originally endorsed by the state government, this vital KPOM is now seemingly not approved as a result of recent Coalition partner koala negations.“

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