A licence to kill native animals has been labelled “red tape” by the Baird government and will be abolished, prompting warnings the move will declare “open season” on kangaroos, emus, wombats and cockatoos.
The annual list of recording of native species being harmed, numbers killed, and locations will be the last published, as the Baird government prepares to introduce a controversial Biodiversity Conservation Act to NSW Parliament this month.
Last year 47,000 native animals and birds were killed in NSW by property owners using a “s121 licence”. Each licence strictly controls the number of animals permitted to killed, and requires data to be lodged with the Office of Environment and Heritage.
The office issued permits for 34 species, or a total of 145,550 animals and birds to be killed in 2015-16. This included more than 100,000 eastern grey kangaroos, almost 9000 corellas, 6500 sulphur crested cockatoos, 5500 galahs, 655 emus, 175 swamp wallabies, 113 wombats and 83 magpies.
409 Little Corella were killed last year, but 8910 were permitted to be killed. Photo: Jon Reid
An application to kill kookaburras at North Head by a lessee in Sydney Harbour National Park was refused.
The Royal Zoological Society of NSW has warned that removing the licence will cause the neglect of three-quarters of protected fauna in NSW and “will almost certainly miss the species that are sliding towards threatened status”.
Stopping the recording of native species being harmed, numbers killed, and locations, “is to abandon global-standard wildlife management practices”, the society said.
The NSW Opposition claims wombats, kangaroos, emus, possums, wallabies, kookaburras and parrots will lose protection if the licensing system is dropped.
“These proposals declare open season on the killing of native animals across NSW,” said Labor’s environment spokeswoman Penny Sharpe.
“Those who seek to kill native wildlife will be able to do so with no oversight and little consequence.
“The approach suggested by the Baird government beggars belief, not only do they remove protections for killing native animals, they will also stop keeping records of how many are killed.”
According to the government’s biodiversity reform website, the new law will take a “risk-based approach” to wildlife, with low-risk activities no longer requiring a licence or record-keeping. It said an example of this is “harming of locally abundant animals”.
Moderate-risk activities, such as commercial kangaroo harvesting, will be covered by a code of conduct.
Species to be exempt from offences relating to harming animals will include sulphur crested cockatoos, galahs, purple swamp hens, ravens and crows. However a full list of exempt animals and birds is not provided.
Harming a native animal during land clearing will also no longer be an offence if the property owner was unaware of the animal.
Environment Minister Mark Speakman said the government was considering stakeholder feedback on the bill, which takes a “risk-based approach to regulating human interactions with wildlife”.
“The existing provisions for licensing people to manage native plants and animals in the National Parks and Wildlife Act are proposed to be replaced and strengthened.”
Last year, 47,000 native animals were killed in NSW by property owners using a ‘s121 licence’, including 315 emu. Photo: Supplied
He said there would be “strong provisions for compliance and enforcement”.
The royal society said the proposed law won’t take into account the need to manage animals and birds flocking to an area with water in times of drought, for example.
A meeting of the Kangaroo Management Advisory Panel in Dubbo last October was told that the Office of Environment and Heritage was keen to remove s121 licences, which had been ranked by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal as 32nd on a list of 776 licences that were impeding business due to red tape.
The government confirmed it intends to introduce the biodiversity legislation to NSW Parliament in October.
Ms Sharpe said the proposed law should be abandoned.