Critical Flaws in NSW Biodiversity Report – What’s Wrong?

It has been alleged that Forest Corporation of NSW does a better job managing its estate than the NSW National Parks, now the Biodiversity Report confirms this by its reporting and omission!

Mon 13 May 24


A new report published by the NSW Government, the Biodiversity Report and Outlook for 2024, is indirectly a strong criticism of NSW National Parks whilst being a standard NSW Government glossy…seeking to paint a concerning and deteriorating picture of biodiversity in NSW. 

However, it also contains errors, omissions, and a confusing range of policies to arrest the modelled and predicted decline of biodiversity. 

A range of programs are in place to alleviate this potential loss by addressing current threats. These programs include “the Saving our Species program, the NSW Koala strategy, national park acquisition, private land conservation, reintroductions of locally extinct species, restoration of habitat, and managing fire and pests.”  

A discerning read of the report advises that these programs are bordering on window dressing. 

An Inconvenient Truth: National Parks’ Role in NSW’s Biodiversity Crisis

The major omission in the Report is that it fails to tell the reader that 88% of the land controlled by the NSW Government is maintained and controlled by the NSW National Parks – a fellow agency in the Department of the Environment.

A fall in biodiversity must start with the land over which the Government has direct control.

All the indicators in the report are reported as state-wide, which means the success or otherwise of the NSW National Parks agency cannot be determined. This is a constant theme. Three State agencies cover private land and State-owned land. Figures for the work done by the NSW National Parks have been available since 2013.

A Freedom of Information request earlier this year regarding what works and costs the National parks apply to the State Park system delivered nil results. A senior agency officer confirmed, “Yes, the data is disaggregated.” There is a complete lack of transparency. Why?

In 2013, NSW National Parks spent $7.11 per hectare ($50M) on fire management, while the  Forest Corporation of NSW, the other manager of conservation areas and State forests, spent $2.18 per hectare.  

On pest and weed management, NSW National Parks spent $4.79 per hectare, about $34.5M, and FCNSW spent $0.32 per hectare. These are the latest figures, and in all probability, they are a high watermark. 

In recent days, the NSW Government has expanded the amount of land managed by National Parks. Now, more than 88% of the land controlled by the State Government is under the control of NSW National Parks.
It is well known that FCNSW does a better job managing its estate than the NSW National Parks, but the Biodiversity Report confirms this by its reporting and omission!

Go to the NSW National Parks and see what information is available: Out of 260 parks, only four appeared to have work being carried out. This might have altered as the list was inspected in early April. One of these, Barrington Tops, was closed as it had a fungus introduced into Australia in 1990 that was very harmful to native forests.

As for the impact on biodiversity? Not mentioned in the Biodiversity Report! 

Go to the Commonwealth Biosecurity Risk websites, and you will see that imported timber presents a real danger to Australian native habitat.  

Already, there is myrtle rust in NSW.  It has caused one flora species to become endangered. There is no mention of this in the Biodiversity Report, yet the Report writes endlessly about the loss of native habitats. 

What measures in NSW is the Biodiversity Unit undertaking or the Department of Environment?  None, actually, as there is an active move to lock up all State land in NSW and a push to do the same with agricultural land. It is harder to read the fine print on land clearing and then look at other literature not in the Biodiversity Report. 

long term trends in woody vegetation clearing fig01 totals
According to the report, “land clearing” (which really means forest harvesting) for native forestry has been in steady decline since 2016, with the vast majority of woody vegetation clearing coming from agriculture and infrastructure. (Image Credit: NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water).

The Report shows that on ecosystem management, 11.2% of NSW was secured for permanent protection, up from 8.6%.  This is one of only two statistics heading up; all the other data related to biodiversity are heading south.  Why?

What really seems to be happening is that as more land is locked up, the extinction crisis is getting worse.

The Report informs us: “The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Ecological Health Performance Scorecard Program aims to improve the ecological health of NSW national parks by systematically collecting ecological field data. This critical information will be used to inform and deliver effective park management. Initially, 30% of the national park estate will be monitored.”  

How does collecting data stop extinction?  

In the 2019-2020 wildfires, all the wildfires started and came out of NSW National Parks.  The ferocity and intensity of these wildfires turned native forests into moonscapes and adversely altered the soil profiles that impacted future regrowth and the type of habitat.  

Intensely burned habitats resulted in the absolute destruction of all wildlife, plants, and seeds in the ground—truly, total, and absolute destruction. The NSW Government Department of the Environment and the NSW National Parks have been silent on the regrowth of black wattle.

This creates a type of green desert and increases wildfire risk. 

The Biodiversity Report does not mention wildfires or their impact on native habitats. However, it does tell us: “The 2019–20 bushfires reduced the area of habitat for many species (Figure 6), increasing their risk of extinction. Burnt habitat may take decades to recover.” 

The Report speaks of ‘fire thresholds.  “Fire thresholds identify the acceptable fire intervals (i.e. time between fires) for each of the 12 broad vegetation formations in New South Wales. They specify the minimum and maximum number of years between fires that are suitable for conserving biodiversity.”  

So, wildfire is good for native habitat? Is this what the Report is suggesting?

The acceptable time intervals between fires must be an “it is all too hard” statement.  It is certainly unacceptable.  It clearly illustrates that the Department of Environment and the Biodiversity Division do not intend to manage the land under its control to ensure limited wildfires.  They are certainly controllable through mosaic burning and the mosaic use of working forests, as was shown on indigenous and managed landscapes in the 2019-2020 wildfire. 

NSW-based researchers have confirmed that timber harvesting had no impact on Koala populations. (Photo Credit: Image Courtesy of Adobe Stock Images)
On Friday, NSW-based researchers confirmed that timber harvesting did not impact Koala populations – and that in Northern NSW forests – home to the proposed Koala Park – the species is not at risk of extinction. (Photo Credit: Image Courtesy of Adobe Stock Images)

These sites had limited, if no, loss of habitat and fauna, particularly koalas. This was never reported by the Department of the Environment. If the Department of the Environment website is searched, one will see that mosaic burning is being conducted for specific species management. But not so for wildfire management of all flora and fauna. The overall philosophy is to lock up and leave (to burn). 

Recent reports in the mainstream newspapers inform us that feral pigs have migrated from the West of NSW into National Parks on the Great Dividing Range. 

The matter has been raised in the NSW Parliament.  Feral pigs destroy native habitats by wholesale ground disturbance.  The Biodiversity Report tells us, “The primary cause of decline for many threatened species in New South Wales is predation by red foxes and feral cats, and competition from feral herbivores.”  No mention of feral pigs in National Parks!  You must ask why this is so.

For over two decades, there has been a call for cross-tenure monitoring of all native forests under the control of the NSW State Government.

Work started under the last Government, but Officers of the Department of the Environment ended the funding during COVID.  

Without cross-tenure monitoring and reporting, one gets the type of report that constitutes the 2024 Biodiversity Report: a glossy volume that really tells one nothing, and, as with previous Reports, the statistics get worse. 

The failure to cross-tenure monitor results in obfuscating the relevant biodiversity data.  In a truly objective assessment, the absence of cross-tenure monitoring and reporting makes the 2024 Biodiversity Report close too, if not, a nonsense.  Certainly, a waste of taxpayer’s money.


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