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Land equal to 350 CBDs cleared in NSW each year

Data shows NSW loses 260 hectares of native vegetation to land clearing each day.

Data shows NSW loses 260 hectares of native vegetation to land clearing each day. Photo: AAP

An area of land about 350 times the size of the Sydney CBD is lost to land clearing every year in NSW, the equivalent of more than 640 football fields every day.

The latest government data shows an average of 95,000 hectares of native vegetation – or 260 hectares a day – was cleared for farming, forestry and development across the state every year for the past four years.

The government says the total of 379,000 hectares cleared follow the former coalition’s biodiversity policy changes and continue the trend of heightened clearing rates since native vegetation laws were relaxed in 2017.

The changes gave farmers more freedom to clear land without having to find equivalent areas of offsets, drawing criticism from conservation groups.

Native vegetation clearing decreased by seven per cent overall in 2021 when compared to the year before, according to data from the Department of Planning and Environment.

The clearing of native woody vegetation increased by 31 per cent in the period between 2018 and 2021 compared to 2009 and 2017.

A 2021 NSW state of the environment report included warnings of native vegetation decline, poor waterway health and a rise in threatened and endangered species.

Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said Labor’s fears more land clearing would result from the changes introduced by the coalition were well-founded.

“This data shows why reform is so important,” she said.

Ms Sharpe said the government would use the data from the statewide landcover and tree study report when considering reforms in response to a review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The state’s biodiversity conservation laws are subject to a mandated five year review, with the next to be tabled in parliament at the end of August.

– AAP

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