A parliamentary report has found that government plans to sell off Crown lands are strongly opposed by communities, including those on the northern rivers.
The report says communities value their Crown land parks and cherish them for their environmental, social and cultural values.
On the northern rivers, the community-based Brunswick Heads’ Foreshore Protection Group for years has been fighting to stop a land grab of prime foreshore Crown land by a government-appointed trust running public caravan parks.
The NSW Nature Conservation Council (NCC) and NSW National Parks Association (NPA) are now calling for a full audit of Crown lands to ensure such lands, including those with threatened species habitat, is adequately protected and never sold.
The NCC’s chief executive Kate Smolski said premier Baird was poised to introduce significant changes in Crown lands management ‘without coming clean with the people about what’s really at stake’.
‘We have not seen his draft legislation and the government can’t tell us what environmental values are at risk from these proposals,’ Ms Smolksi said.
‘The parliamentary report shows that when the government looks at Crown lands, it sees dollar signs, and when the people look at Crown land, they see a rich environmental and cultural legacy that they want protected for future generations,’ she said.
‘Citizens have a right to know what treasures these lands contain before Mr Baird flogs them off or transfers them to local councils.
‘Crown lands are often the last remnants of critical threatened species habitat, especially in the heavily cleared inland districts of the state, so the government has a duty to retain and protect the,’ Ms Smolski said.
NPA chief executive Kevin Evans the report ‘sends a strong signal to the government that its focus on the economic benefits of Crown lands is misplaced and that it should move away from its proposed business-style approach’.
‘The community has made its views on Crown lands clear. People want them managed for their environmental and cultural values, not as just another resource to be exploited,’ Mr Evans said.
‘The inquiry recommended the government consider an audit of the ecological values of Crown lands, including its local, regional and state environmental significance.
‘We strongly support this recommendation and want to see ongoing protection of areas of high ecological value,’ he said.
The two organisations are calling on the government to release a draft exposure bill for community consultation,’rather than introduce the bill into parliament without giving the community a chance to see what it contains, as is currently the plan’.
To view the report visit www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2404#tab-reports