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Nature Positive Plan sparks fears for farmers and concerns on nation’s food supply

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
National Farmers’ Federation president David Jochinke is no fan of the new Nature Positive Plan.
National Farmers’ Federation president David Jochinke is no fan of the new Nature Positive Plan. Credit: Supplied/National Farmers' Feder/RegionalHUB

Australia’s farmers are “extremely concerned” about Federal Labor’s proposed “nature positive” reforms, amid fears the laws could pile further pressure on the nation’s food supply.

The Albanese Government is pushing ahead with a so-called “Nature Positive Plan”, which is set to radically uproot existing environmental protection legislation to enforce more stringent requirements on all future major projects across Australia.

These reforms have been shrouded in secrecy away from public scrutiny, with industry stakeholders only being briefed in Canberra in lock-up style sessions where laptops and phones are forbidden.

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The president of the National Farmers’ Federation David Jochinke told The Nightly that farmers are extremely concerned about the potential detriment to agriculture from the reforms.

“Already the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is not well understood, is difficult to manage at a practical, landscape level, and often conflicts with state-based legislation,” the boss of the country’s peak organisation for farmers said.

“We have consistently sought clarity, greater consistency and empathy from the Government on just how difficult it is to manage a farm landscape in the context of constantly changing environmental laws.”

Mr Jochinke said the NFF wanted to ensure that proposed structures did not have perverse outcomes for agriculture and make it harder for farmers to farm.

“Any reforms must meet the test of being easily understood, not compromise business as usual farming practice and not set unreasonable thresholds that would prevent sustainable business practice.”

“The land is farmers’ lifeblood, they want to manage it sustainably so they can grow food and fibre for generations to come. It’s imperative we need to get the balance right to achieve positive outcomes for nature, but also for farmers.

The agricultural sector is not the only critical industry to voice its opposition against the reforms.

On Sunday the boss of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA — one of the nation’s most prominent lobby groups for miners — said the legislation carried potentially major ramifications for the resources sector.

“If the Federal Government gets it wrong, it risks not only the ongoing economic contribution of the sector’s existing operations but also $93 billion in future investment projects and associated jobs,” CME chief executive officer Rebecca Tomkinson said.

Even green groups have voiced their trepidations, with The Australian Conservation Foundation stating a planned Federal environment watchdog would be “undermined from the very start” if the Environment Minister was handed unfettered power to approve projects.

Consultation on the reforms to date has involved flying stakeholders to Canberra for a series of closed-door briefing sessions where they can take handwritten notes but are forbidden from bringing laptops or phones.

That is a significant deviation from the more standard consultation process over major legislative reform that typically involves the release of discussion papers and the opportunity for any member of the public to make submissions.

The Albanese Government is understood to be planning to introduce the new laws to Parliament following the winter recess.

Industry resentment has been further fuelled by the similar level of secrecy also being applied to the initial closed-door consultation period on a significant update to the nation’s “Nature Strategy”, which is set to close in less than three weeks.

The Nature Strategy, which is unrelated to the EPBC, covers areas as complex as the future of climate change and a “zero new extinctions” policy, meaning the survival of no flora or fauna species can be put at risk whatsoever.

This comes as resources giants BHP and Rio Tinto are currently faced with navigating environmental approvals over microscopic water bugs known as stygofauna.

Stygofauna groundwater-dwelling creatures that are typically millimetres or micrometres in size and some species have populations that can number less than a dozen.

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