The NSW Government’s draft Biodiversity Conservation Act aims to take the place of three existing acts: The Native Vegetation Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Nature Conservation Trust Act. Unfortunately it seems this new super-Act only replaces old red tape with new red tape.

One sensible change is enabling farmers to self-assess whether clearing falls under a category for which they do not need approval.

It is a welcome development that under the new system farmers will be allowed to apply to clear regulated vegetation. Unfortunately as a red tape trade-off farmers must either “set aside” other areas on the land that will not be cleared, or contribute to a new Biodiversity Conservation Fund. Such a system will become complex and undoubtedly result in more compliance and red tape for farmers.

Even still, the new NSW laws are a step in the right direction as they relax many of the unnecessary red tape laws in regards to land clearing.

Governments, environmental groups, Labor and the Greens far too often assume farmers don’t care or know what is best for the environment, these laws turn the tables around. NSW Farmers Association President Derek Schoen said of the new laws:

“The existing regulations are a nightmare for farmers. The current act over regulates, micro-manages and often prevents better environmental outcomes. Farmers find themselves caught up in layers of complexity and red tape, which prevents them from getting on with managing their land and business.”

It is overly-pessimistic to assume farmers are not the best custodians of their land. Red tape for our agriculture sector not only imposes substantial compliance burdens on our farmers, but often does not achieve the objectives it seeks.

As the IPA’s Darcy Allen outlined in this video last month, vegetation management regulation must understand the complex trade-off between sustainability and growth. We are seeing similar issues in Queensland now.

The agricultural industry across Australia contributes over $50 billion to our GDP year upon year. Unfortunately this important industry is being hindered by red tape. This is no wonder given recent IPA research which revealed red tape costs the Australian economy $176 billion each year in foregone economic output.

Of course cutting all red tape will not happen overnight. But acknowledging there is a problem – and tackling it step by step – is the path to unleashing Australian prosperity.