Resource security


Resource security

Little could be more short-sighted, not to say downright criminal, than the NSW government's proposed resource security legislation. The package of five bills would dump the existing state list of around 200 endangered species and replace it with the national list of 57. There is no doubt that all of the 200 species on the state list are endangered. The list is to be changed on the grounds that even if the species die out in NSW they will survive in other states!

The package would also set up a Natural Resources Management Council with the power to change national park boundaries. This body would be open to domination by business interests including mining companies, real estate developers, etc.

There is no doubt that the bills pose a serious new threat to the few, already endangered, remaining areas of forest and wilderness in NSW. Most of the state's environment protection legislation, some of it a result of long struggles, would be in jeopardy. There is also no doubt that the National Party, which is closely linked to north coast development interests, has had a big hand in drafting these bills.

Ironically, the NSW Labor Party is speaking out against the package. Yet, the federal Labor government is the political force most responsible for placing resource legislation on the agenda, mainly because of its eagerness to please big forestry and mining interests.

The whole concept of resource legislation is very suspect, to say the least. It involves guaranteeing private companies indefinite access to public resources, on the dubious grounds that this will create jobs. In most cases, modern resource projects are capital-intensive, and create very few jobs, except in a brief construction phase. Moreover, in the case of forestry operations in wild native forests, they destroy a resource that can never be replaced.

Companies seeking to exploit public resources should be subject to intense public scrutiny, and forced to answer some hard questions: are they prepared to pay the real cost of the resources they want to exploit; what are they prepared to do to minimise long-term damage to the environment; in the case of forestry companies, are they prepared to overcome their dependence on public resources by creating plantations; in the case of mining companies, are they prepared to include the cost of protecting and restoring the environment in their calculations; in the case of land developers, this rapacious gang should simply be outlawed and replaced by a publicly accountable state land and housing agency subject to the strictest planning and environmental controls.

All this and a great deal more is necessary if we are to have a livable environment. The proposed NSW laws, and all resource ep in precisely the wrong direction.