Andrew Mullins’ family has farmed ‘Ringwood’ near Narrabri for 111 years and to his knowledge ‘no one has ever seen a sign of a koala on the property.’

Mr Mullins along with landowners across NSW had been worried about the implications of the NSW government’s proposed Koala Planning Protection Policy.

Draconian proposals for a swathe of ‘koala core habitats’ across the state would have had significant impacts on property owners’ abilities to farm, creating a raft of expensive new compliance requirements in designated ‘core habitats’ not only on farming land but across urban and recreational land use areas.

Trees designated as ‘koala habitat’ have been expanded from 30 species to more than 120. A core koala habitat would be decreed if a koala had been spotted in the previous 18 years.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro, supported by his Nationals colleagues, led the fight against the proposed new State Environmental Planning Policy, threatening to move the Nationals to the crossbench. The NSW Farmers Association urged the NSW Nationals and Liberal Party to come up with a ‘sensible solution’.

Now, the SEPP has been modified to give more certainty to farmers’ rights.

Farmers across regional NSW now have greater certainty following a successful push by the NSW Nationals to separate day-to-day farming and private native forestry operations from the NSW’s Government’s Koala Planning Protection Policy.

NSW Nationals Upper House MP, Sam Farraway said the agreement meant the State Environmental Planning Policy primary focus will be the protection of koalas from the effects of urban and peri-urban development, without inhibiting traditional farming practices.

“Every concern that was raised with me and my Nationals colleagues on this issue was put on the table and listened to by Cabinet and it is great to be able to say an agreement was reached that will protect koala habitats without having landholders’ property rights overridden by a planning instrument,” Mr Farraway said.

“This is the balanced approach we were asking for all along. Not only will this SEPP protect koalas’ habitat, it will also protect farmers’ property rights and our agricultural industries.

“Farmers face enough uncertainty with seasonal conditions and volatile markets – it is critical they have certainty around rules that apply to their farming practices as they come back from bushfire and drought.

“This is why we needed to have these tough conversations around this SEPP, it was so much more than just a planning instrument and it needed to be looked at through a lens outside of a department building in Sydney.

“It may have been a bumpy road to get to this point but, Deputy Premier John Barilaro fought hard and was backed by The Nationals party room.

“Now we have a decision which will deliver a positive outcome for the communities of regional NSW.”

The compliance and enforcement responsibilities for private native forestry remain unchanged.

There are existing protections in the land management framework, which include harsh penalties for individuals or corporations who harm a threatened species. These provisions and protections are also unchanged.

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