THE koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP 2019) will be remade across NSW as SEPP 2021.

Core rural zones in rural areas will be decoupled from the SEPP as new codes that protect koala habitat under the Local Land Services Act are developed over the next month.

This will vastly reduce red tape by removing the dual consent requirements facing foresters and farmers while immediately introducing enhanced protection for koala habitat in areas where more than 95% of development activity occurs.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the concerns of landholders in regional NSW had been heard by the state government.

“This is a win for regional NSW and balances the interests of farmers and the protection of koalas and their habitat,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Land zoned for primary production or forestry in regional NSW will not be subject to the new SEPP, which means farmers will not be strangled by red tape.

“The intention has always been to find a solution to protect both farmers and koalas and we have successfully arrived at the Koala SEPP 2021.”

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the new solution was a big step forward for the protection of koalas in NSW.

“The new SEPP will apply to areas where more than 95% of development occurs across NSW, places where koala protection is needed most,” Mr Stokes said.

“The new SEPP will help us achieve the NSW Koala Strategy’s objective of stabilising, then increasing the populations of koalas in the wild.”

Timber NSW general manager Maree McCaskill said while the process appeared to be a step forward, “the devil will be in the transitional arrangements”.

“We will need to see the SEPP and keep in mind that a SEPP does not have to go through parliament – it is an instrument that can be declared or repealed by the Minister for Planning without reference to the government,” she said.

Observations show the Coalition could not get a new amendment to the Local Land Services Act through the house; Catherine Cusack, a member of the NSW Legislative Council, representing the Liberal Party, would again cross the floor if it was attempted again.

[Tensions last year over the Coalition government koala policy boiled over when Ms Cusack made an emotional speech to parliament before crossing the floor. Her vote meant the bill was defeated 18-19. She said the bill was about patching up a political disagreement, not protecting koalas]

“The other option – although a real risk for industry – is to do the change via a SEPP,” Maree McCaskill said.

“Again remember, a SEPP does not get approved through parliament and is entirely created and or removed by the Minister for Planning.

“The new koala SEPP 2021 to be created will contain a clause to remove the requirement for dual consent.”

Some key points in the NSW government release include:

• Koala SEPP 2019 will be remade across NSW as Koala SEPP 2021 (yet to see the detail).

• The existing Koala SEPP 2020 (updated SEPP 44) will continue to apply in core rural zones (RU 1, 2 and 3), except in metropolitan Sydney, Blue Mountains and the Central Coast, where Koala SEPP 2021 will apply across all zones.

• Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management (KPOM) will be finalised to protect koala habitat in Tweed and Byron Shires. (It will be interesting to see what happens in Byron Shire as no real forest is left in the Tweed).

• Private Native Forestry (PNF) and Local Land Services (LLS) codes will be revised to ensure robust protections for koalas in areas of high value koala habitat and certainty and consistency for primary producers (due to go through in  next two months).

• Once the codes are finalised and reflected in legislation (as required), the Koala SEPP 2020 will be repealed and the Koala SEPP 2021 will apply to the remaining land. (But it may be challenged in the Upper House as Catherine Cusack could still cross the floor).

Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said the new solution will ensure protections for core koala habitat and colonies across the state.

“We have ambitious plans to double koala populations in NSW by 2050 and that means we need the right policy tools in place to protect and preserve wildlife and their habitat,” Mr Kean said.

“This is a good first step and we will continue to build on that with our soon to be announced Koala Strategy 2.0 which will include targeted conservation and investment actions to boost conservation across the state.”